Using Your Landscape Memo by DFA Campaign Academy

By at January 31, 2014 | 11:22 am | Print

Using Your Landscape Memo by DFA Campaign Academy


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

 Determining Your Vote Goal

To win most elections you need a majority of votes cast, or 50%+1. If you have the basic information for your landscape, you should be able to figure out this number. Start with total number of registered voters in the district, then multiply that by the percentage of voters likely to turn out for this election. Likely turnout is calculated by looking at the last few similar elections for the same seat, excluding outliers (presidential election years are useless for midterm election estimates, for example), then divide by two and add one:

((Total Registered Voters x Expected Voter Turnout) x 50%) + 1 = Minimum # votes needed to win.

To give us a margin of error, we often calculate 52%, instead of 50% +1.

When we discuss targeting strategy, we’ll use this number and work backwards, figuring out where these votes will come from. Of course, it would be wonderful if everyone voted for our candidate, but in reality we have limited resources and must focus these resources where they are most effective. Once we have our vote goal, we can figure out how many of our base voters we need, how many swing voters we need, etc.

Developing Your Core

Your landscape memo will give you an idea of whom your early supporters might be. In addition to the candidate’s close friends and family, your candidate may have close personal or professional ties with a number of organizations and constituencies. These close connections must be leveraged early on to get the campaign off the ground. Outsiders and potential donors keep a close eye on candidates to see if they are serious about running.You must cultivate early allies and donors from these initial connections in order to expand your network of supporters and sustain your campaign.

Early Targeting and Messaging

Your landscape memo will clue you into what your district needs to hear from a serious candidate. For example,the single-family, homeowner demographic will require different outreach than transient, young, apartment dwellers. Factors like age, race, and sex matter.


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





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