Name ID is by far the most important factor in determining a candidate’s viability for a particular race. Not only the candidate’s own Name ID but also the Name ID of the opponent(s). The only real way to know is to poll ‘likely voters’. But if you can remove your ego and biases and be truly objective, you can probably assume the level of Name ID that you and your opponent(s) have.
What is name ID?
“Name ID” is how well a candidate is known by simply mentioning the candidate’s name. When you are asking a question like “Do you know who Beto O’ Rourke is?” or “Do you know who Cissy Lizzaraga is?” you are measuring Name ID. No doubt if we asked both questions to 100 random El Pasoans, Beto O’ Rourke would have the bigger name ID. When we ask questions like “Do you generally have positive, negative, or no opinions about Beto O’Rourke?” we are measuring if it is good name ID or bad name ID. These are the two questions that must be polled (or assumed) to determine the name ID of the candidate. Therefore the general categories for name ID are:
- Good Strong NameID-Basically, you are well known and well liked. You likely have held office for 4-12 years, possibly longer, winning most, if not all of your previous elections with landslide victoires, and now you’re ready for the big time. I am talking US Congress, County Judge, Mayor of El Paso, and State Senator. If you haven’t held office before, then you have been a local celebrity for years, and folks are familiar with your philanthropy. Everyone knows when you enter a room, and everyone feels charmed when you say hello to them, even your opponent’s supporters. Your only threat in this election is another candidate with Good Strong NameID, or a devastating scandal that comes to light during the election. However, do not take winning for granted against a Some NameID candidate with a lot of time and money on their hands. You should still win, but you will have to do all the same work, and spend at least as much as your opponent.
- Some Good NameID-Same as Good Strong nameID, except not as well known. Maybe you ran a great campaign previously in a big race, but lost to a Good Strong NameID. Maybe you’ve held office for a longtime but it is a “down ballot office” like JP or School board. An open seat race for City Council or County Commissioner or even State Rep should be yours to win, as often these offices are sought by individuals with No NameID. Of course, there may be one other candidate with Some NameID entering the race. They can easily beat you if they work harder and have more money. Avoid wasting your time and money against a category 1 candidate, unless you know you can outraise them and you know you have less obligations on your hands.
- Some NameID-People have heard of you, but don’t know anything about you. You probably hold an office that no one cares about like District Clerk, or Tax Assessor. Or maybe you’re on the B list of local celebrities but no one knows anything positive you’ve done for the community. Or you have run for office a few times without making any much of a showing. If yours is the third, I got news for you. You’re probably going to lose again. But maybe now you finally get what it takes to win, and you’re ready to whip all these No NameID candidates in that open seat school board race. Or maybe you’ve finally decided to hire professionals, and have accomplished something to boast about, and now you have a chance in that open seat race for city council. Forget about beating a category 1 candidate. If you run a fantastic campaign against a category 2 candidate whose campaign had a misstep or two, you may have the upset victory of the night (there is usually one).
- Some Bad NameID-(Some consultants may argue this is worse than having No NameID, and they may be right. But anyone that has at least some NameID will always have some supporters off the bat. Entering the race, they should still have a lead over a No NameID candidate) You probably are an elected official who got caught up in a minor scandal. Some folks will think it isn’t a big deal, but most likely your enemies have control of the story they are pedaling to the media and now you are on the defensive. Even with a good defense, voters are turned off. They may still vote for you if you don’t have a worthy opponent. But a No NameID candidate can easily flip one of your voters with a simple handshake. You may be better off saving face by not seeking reelection.
- No nameID-Nobody knows who you are and therefore have no reason to vote for you. Your best chance is an open seat race against other no names, most likely for an office no higher than city council. You’re going to need to spend a significant amount of money for voters to know your name and want to vote for you before election day. You’re looking at least 3 mailers and a serious field program. Social media isn’t going to be nearly enough. In a race full of no names someone has to win. Expect that person to have raised/spent at least 30K(for city council, not counting special elections), be attractive, an impressive professional resume, with political and financial connections, and with good public speaking skills that demonstrates some knowledge of policy. The winning candidate likely hired a professional campaign staff, and hit the phones and doors hard themselves.
- Bad Strong name ID-Everyone pretty much knows you and hates you. You are probably an elected official under some serious accusations, and your defense is holding zero water. A No NameId candidate could beat you just by having their name on the ballot. Save your money, time, and embarrassment. Do not run. You cannot win.