The Political Landscape Memo by DFA Campaign Academy

By at January 27, 2014 | 12:03 pm | Print

The Political Landscape Memo by DFA Campaign Academy


This excerpt was taken from Democracy for America’s Campaign Academy Grassroots Campaign Training Manual.  

All well-organized campaigns begin with a political landscape memo. This memo outlines the race, the candidates, the strategy, and the anticipated tactics your campaign will use to win. The document describes the people, time,and money resources required for victory. This memo includes specific information and detailed estimates on the district, the different candidates and their resources, and the factors affecting the race. This memo is a strictly objective outline used as a starting point for your race.This is your campaign’s first product. Having a good landscape memo shows others that the campaign is serious about the election. Party organizations, early donors, and your first staff need to have a sense of what they are about to get into. Most importantly, the memo allows you to predict and plan your campaign.

Do Your Homework

1.  The district

2.  The election

3.  The candidate

4.  The opposition

The District

 Your district’s vital statistics are critical for planning your campaign. They will help you determine your initial strategy, messaging, and targeting. Serious candidates and staffers have these numbers committed to memory. District info to know:

  • Physical boundaries

  • Major population centers

  • Major media outlets covering the district.

  • Demographic information: populations, race, age,income, housing.

  • Registration numbers: Dem, Rep, others, decline to state

  • Democratic turnout in past elections for the same seat

  • Money raised and spent in the last similar election

The Election

Every election is unique. Understand the larger political environment. Election info to know:

  • Are you running as part of a slate?

  • How will organizing at the top of the ticket affect your race?

  • Will other candidates be active in your district?

  • Are there initiatives on the ballot?

  • What resources can you expect from your Party orCaucus?

  • Factors that differentiate this election from others for the same seat. How might these effect your assumptions?

  • What are the major local issues relevant to your desired office?

  • What are the major national issues on the minds of voters?

The Candidate and Likely Challengers

Start developing an early biography of your candidate. What makes your candidate compelling? What’s the campaign story? The campaign needs to be ready to highlight the candidate’s outstanding personal story, but also ready for less favorable information to come out. The best defense for personally negative attacks is to know they’re coming. This information will also help your campaign develop its base in its initial outreach efforts.

Biographical info to know:

  • Employment

  • Religious affiliations

  • Community involvement

  • Memberships, associations and affiliations

  • Business interests

  • Past public offices/voting record

  • Existing social networks

  • The same information for close family members

Writing Your Landscape Memo: Research

The US Census website, has basic demographicinformation such as age, race, sex, income, and housing.

The American Factfinder tool can be found at

To search by city and county,

District maps are available at, but once your campaign begins you will want to use larger,more detailed maps where districts and precincts are sorted for you. These are available at your county elections office.

A voter roll is a public document which also be found at your county elections office or town clerk’s office. A voter file maintained by campaigns and political parties and contains detailed information on voters based on past campaign work and other enhancements. It is a campaign tool used to track registered voters’ contact info, voting history, and voter support information. You can obtain these from your local Party, previous campaigns, or from various vendors.

Are you reinventing the wheel

Most likely, it’s all been done before.Candidates who’ve come before you,and/or your local Party organization may already have a landscape memo.Ask for it, and update it. They might also have a Voter File for you.

Democracy for America (DFA) was founded in 2004 by Gov. Howard Dean to carry on the empowerment ethos of his presidential campaign.  It was based on the idea that the grassroots are the key to the Democratic Party’s success.  DFA is the nation’s largest progressive political action organization with over 1 million members.  

The mission of Democracy For America Campaign Academy is to focus, network, and train grassroots activists in the skills and strategies to take back our country, manage successful campaigns or run for office themselves.

Democracy for America  PO Box 1717  Burlington, VT 05402



Management & Strategy

Related Posts

Comments are closed.