Friday, November 9, 2012

GOTV: or how (and why) Democrats win elections

No point in re-inventing the wheel.  In the case of Get Out the Vote efforts, the modern Democratic Party has not only invented the wheel, it had gotten all the way up to steel-belted radials, while the Republicans (and us Libertarians) are still trying to file the edges off the stone.

My friend Tom Knapp (ironically a libertarian who no longer votes), is a keen observer of how this works, and his post explaining exactly what Democrats know and do (and nobody else does) is well worth a complete read, regardless of your political ideology.

Here's a tidbit:
In an election year, it goes something like this: 
- Months before the election, I start getting direct mail from candidates of both parties. 
- Weeks before the election, Democratic candidates start leaving stuff on my door and sometimes knocking on it.
- Weeks before the election, Democratic party workers start knocking on my door to find out whether or not I am registered to vote and GET me registered if not (presumably they do not do this in the Republican parts of the county -- they're hitting areas where they expect the people they register to almost certainly vote Democrat).
- A week or two before the election, I start getting robo-calls to tell me how close it is and how important it is that I vote. Those calls run about 3:1 Democratic.
And on election day, my phone rings off the hook with prominent Democrats urging me to vote, offering me a ride to the polls, screeching that the election depends on my participation, etc. Back when I voted, those calls stopped once I and my wife had voted, which leads me to believe that there's a watcher at each polling place, communicating to the phone banks when they can scratch names off lists.


NCSDad said...

Thats small potatoes. The software the dems have access to is amazing. They have demographics correlated with voting patterns and issues down to the household level.

pandora said...

Team Obama built their technology. Really amazing.

Steve Newton said...

You are right about that, but my point for a Libertarian audience is that there is nothing that Tom Knapp talks about the Democrats doing at the grassroots level that any party cannot do . . .

. . . if their message is convincing enough to actually attract volunteers.

KN@PPSTER said...

NCSDad and Pandora are right -- the Team Obama tech is amazing.

They've updated the Democratic Party's already stellar pre-Internet voter ID operations, and they've built on some of the tech that came out of Howard Dean's 2004 campaign to turn their ID ops into very targeted outreach.

All the tech in the world won't help you if it's not put into local, grassroots action, though, and that is where the Democrats shine.

ORCA was the Romney campaign's attempt to put together similar tech. If fell apart under its first real stress. But even if it hadn't, they were behind the curve because they didn't deploy it until election day.

As the election approached, some of my Republican friends thought one indicator of Romney's impending victory was that he had huge attendance at his rallies and Obama/Biden weren't drawing crowds as big.

The reason Obama/Biden's rallies were smaller was that THEIR supporters were knocking on doors and working phone banks instead of standing around waving signs and listening to Bruce Springsteen.

pandora said...

Romney basically out-sourced ORCA. Oh, the irony.

As one of those grassroots Obama supporters who helped GOTV (sorry :)), I'll tell you another thing we do...

We don't leave. We've been active for the last four years, which is one the reasons field offices opened with up to speed staff.

delacrat said...

My experience with GOTV is most "contacts" are no answer, followed by voicemail/answering machines, then wrong/disconnected numbers, and "DON'T CALL ME AGAIN !!!". The few people willing to talk were set in their minds over who they were voting for. My impression of GOTV is that its effectiveness is uncertain or overestimated.

I believe a more important point made by Tom Knapp is:

"You can lose a hotly contested election even with a great ground game and very effective GOTV (for example, by telling the fastest-growing voter demographic that their relatives should 'self-deport')."

Romney lost because he was a real lousy candidate, with a real lousy message of bashing people who might vote for him, war-mongering and real lousy track record of off-shoring and mass lay-offs. To lose against a standard lousy candidate like Obomba, Romney had to be real lousy.

Against Romney, the election was Obomba's to lose.

There is a saying in advertising that the best advertising can not sell a troubled product, unless the competition's product is more troubled than yours. ...GOTV or not.