10 Questions Every Candidate Should Be Ready To Answer

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on May 15, 2012 – 6:10 AM

Rep. Rick Berg, a candidate for North Dakota’s open Senate seat, was recently asked a straightforward question: “What’s the state’s minimum wage?” He didn’t know the answer – and he’s far from alone.

The Huffington Post points out that four candidates at a recent Senate debate in Missouri also didn’t know the minimum wage. And that’s surprising, considering that this is a perennial question that trips up candidates in virtually every election cycle.

So today, I’m offering all campaigns and candidates a free prep sheet to help them avoid these obvious errors.

Here are ten questions you should be prepared to answer during your race:

1. What’s the Minimum Wage? The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Some states are higher. The full list is here. Candidates should also be able to answer similar questions about their state’s unemployment and home foreclosure rates.

2. What’s the Price of Milk? Reporters ask these types of questions to gauge how much a candidate understands the struggles of “real” Americans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a gallon costs $3.50. (A handy list of other product costs is here.)

3. What’s the Price of Bread? The average price of a loaf of white bread is $1.40.

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4. How Much Is a Gallon Of Gas? The national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gas is $3.87. That’s up from $3.55 last year, $2.78 in 2010, and $1.95 in 2009. Candidates can accurately say that the price has doubled in the past three years. Also know your state/local gas price averages.

5. Why Do You Want to Be a Congressman/Senator/Governor? You’d be surprised how many people blow this simple question. In fact, that very question derailed Ted Kennedy’s presidential bid in 1980.

6. What Mistake(s) Have You Made, And What Have You Learned From It (Them)? This question is sometimes intended as a “gotcha,” but can be a perfect opportunity for candidates to explain a position change.

7. Who Is Your Favorite Supreme Court Justice of All Time, and Why? Candidates should also be able to name a decision they agreed with and one they disagreed with. In recent years, these types of questions have tripped up both Christine O’Donnell and Sarah Palin.

8. When Is The Last Time The (Local Sports Team) Won The Championship/Pennant/World Series/Stanley Cup? During a Democratic debate for Massachusetts Senate late last year, four candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, couldn’t list the years their beloved Boston Red Sox had won the World Series in this century. Candidates should also have similar answers ready for local college teams, and should be able to name their favorite players, as well.

9. Who Is Your Personal Hero? This is a cliché question which typically elicits cliché answers. But unless Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or Eleanor Roosevelt are really your personal heroes, try to come up with something more original – and more revealing about who you are and what moves you.

10. What Newspapers Do You Read? After Sarah Palin’s disastrous handling of this question from Katie Couric, other candidates can expect similar questions. Be ready to name your favorite journalists,  newspapers, radio stations, news programs, and websites.

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Comments (7)

  1. By 10 Questions Every Candidate Should be Ready to Answer | Hotspyer – Breaking News from around the web:

    […] on a review of memorable political gaffes, Brad Phillips gives a list of ten questions every political candidate should be prepared to answer from the […]

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    […] Aren’t All Bad, Part One: Brad Phillips, otherwise known as Mr. Media Training, gives us 10 questions that all candidates should be able to answer at all times. And yes, he says it’s OK to not know the president of […]

  3. By POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 5/16 « Accomack County Democrats:

    […] on a review of memorable political gaffes, Brad Phillips gives a list of ten questions every political candidate should be prepared to answer from the […]

  4. By Gotcha Questions the Media Loves to Ask Politicians » Right Pundits:

    […] Questions the Media Loves to Ask Politicians By Arriba Yesterday, a website that prepares people to be better spokesmen for political candidates formulated a list of 10 […]

  5. By 10 Questions Every Candidate Should be Able to Answer | the Political Daily Download:

    […] If you’ve ever worked closely with a political candidate or elected official then you’ll understand this post.  Invariably, your candidate will face the media and if he/she hasn’t been properly prepped, or at least briefed on the subject at hand, it could spell doom for the campaign and/or bring on lots of work for you doing damage control.  This week over on the Mr. Media blog he gives us “10 Questions Every Candidate Should be Able to Answer.” […]

  6. By Ben Donahower:

    Good points! To make a long story short, candidates shouldn’t be out of touch. There rare some basic things that candidates should know about the average person’s experience. Likewise, candidates should know why they are doing what they are doing.

  7. By The_L:

    I like all of these questions, except for the one about sports. This is because some people, including myself, just do not follow sports at all. I couldn’t tell you who win the most recent Super Bowl or World Series, much less who won them 20 years ago. (I’m not even sure what time of year the World Series is!) Spectator sports are a wonderful hobby, FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE SPORTS. There is nothing wrong with caring about sports, but there’s also nothing wrong with not caring about sports.

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