Incumbency Advantage: Defeating Incumbents in the First Go

Incumbency advantage plays a detrimental role in driving any initial political campaign. Especially for political newcomers, contesting elections against incumbents can be tricky at a time when they are more popular, well-known, and have deeper connections with mighty political donors

Incumbency advantage is a real thing not only while contesting actual elections but in primary elections as well, where you have to fight veterans of your own party.

Roughly 85 percent of incumbents win reelections which speak volumes about their power in any sort of race.

Incumbency Advantage: Defeating Incumbents in the First Go

Measuring Overall Political Environment of the Region

To defeat an incumbent, measuring the overall political environment of the constituency is the first thing to do.

Sometimes people move in and out of the constituency, and the overall demography of the region changes in one form or another.

This is the best possible scenario for any political newcomer, as the new people are equally open to campaign for both the incumbent and the new politicians.

Most incumbents get worried about two things. First is the general perception of the electorate whether or not they consider politicians on the right track. Secondly, if the incumbents really care about them.

So as a political newcomer, your responsibility is to create a narrative that the government is not doing well, and nobody cares about the general public.

These indicators of the general public can be measured easily using political surveys or doing sentiment analysis using various techniques.

This data is what lays the foundation for a successful non-incumbent political campaign needed to win office for the first time.

The bottom line indicator is to measure the approval rating of an incumbent in the office.

Generally, if more than 60 percent of voters disapprove of the incumbent politician in any constituency, that seat is considered to be an easy one for newcomers to capture.

In case of a somewhat lower disapproval rating, the seat still stands open with a wide range of possibilities for political newcomers.

Incumbency Advantage: Defeating Incumbents in the First Go

Tracking Voting Records of Incumbents

In any developed political system, all incumbents have voting records. Which bill did they support, and what did they oppose?

In order to gather all these records, newcomers have to start early so that they collect data before the incumbent starts campaigning.

Thus even before they put their reelection bid in front of the voters, you have the chance to make people think that the incumbent did not walk the talk on many fronts.

This is the easiest yet most labor-intensive way to start a campaign as a political newcomer.

The challenger should start seeing the different political and social issues where the incumbent takes a controversial stance.

This could be the best strategy if pursued properly, as opposition research is the crucial component of any political campaign.

Without it, unseating the incumbent politician can be tricky and pose a great threat to the challenger.

If you are gaining popularity, you have to define your own agenda, or the opposite candidate will do it.

When you are challenging the status quo, you need to put your manifest properly designed by yourself and portray your message to the voters using a communications director.

Otherwise, your opposition will also be looking to find loopholes in your political campaigns, which they can exploit to create a counter-narrative even before you start.


Final Thoughts

The money would be the biggest issue for the challenger, as the established politicians will have multiple donors who can fund their campaigns.

Contrary to that, you have to find good donors and start fundraising as soon as possible and tap the bank accounts of the general public.

If you have the necessary money, you can start your campaign and build a narrative at a pace equal to your opposition.