Campaign Tip: Answering hypothetical questions is a great way to lose ACTUAL elections.

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Here’s today’s tip: Answering hypothetical questions is a great way to lose ACTUAL elections.

I hate hypothetical questions in campaigns. I’m not talking about things like, “If elected, would you vote to cut taxes and spending.” The worst offenders are more detailed and harder to square with circumstances you may face in office. They’re also largely agenda driven. One might sound like, “If you knew that banning all private gun ownership would end firearm crime, would you support the removal of the 2nd amendment?”

Answering that question in the affirmative means you’re not protecting constitutional rights and in the negative, it means you are heartless and love murder...neither of which I hope you support.

That’s a “gotcha” hypothetical question. It’s constructed so there is no way to win by answering it in the form requested. The best path here is to reject the very premise of the question. Since I KNOW that the abolition of the 2nd amendment would not lead to the utopia the question suggests, I should point out the agenda driven nature of the question and make an argument for how I believe another policy would more effectively lead to a lowering of violent crime, without curtailing our Constitutional rights.

Hypothetical questions come in many shapes and sizes. So always be on the lookout for questions that box you in. Most have a strong emotional appeal and it regularly feels like not answering in the way requested makes you sound like a typical politician. The fact is though that by rejecting the premise of their question and reengineering it, you can protect yourself and articulate a real policy solution.

Answering your adversary’s question is a good way to hand them the momentum. Answering hypothetical questions is a great way to lose ACTUAL elections.

Raz Shafer