Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Pounding the rock in the 2012 election

Get to work. The boss is here. 

Political insiders like to debate the relative merits of what they call the ground game versus taking to the airwaves. The ground game refers to the ability or interest of a candidate's campaign to put workers in close physical proximity to voters, whether that be to actively canvass voters face-to-face or get supportive voters to polling stations on election day. The over-the-air campaign refers, of course, to television and radio ads.

Partly because Democrats know they won't be able to outspend Republicans on ads, they have put a lot of effort into the ground game, as they did in 2008.

Seth Masket, a political scientist who has researched the use of field offices, produced a chart detailing the number of field offices now established in 11 swing states, which suggests the relative effort of the two parties to mount an effective ground game.

Masket wonders if perhaps Obama had more time to get offices up and running while Romney was campaiging for his party's nomination, but notes that things are getting a little late for that to be true.

Perhaps the most interesting point that Masket makes is this:

It may also be that field offices are a better investment for Democrats than for Republicans. (Notably, my paper found that Obama's 2008 field offices helped him win in a few states, while McCain's didn't help him nearly as much.) Democrats traditionally turn out at lower rates than Republicans; perhaps the field offices can help Democrats mitigate that. Also, field offices may be vital for Democrats in overcoming new voter ID laws by communicating voting requirement information directly to voters.

To put a fine point on it, if Obama can get younger voters out in larger numbers, or those who are more commonly disenfranchised, he wins. There is nothing like face-to-face contact to help make that happen.

I love a good ground game. As they say in the National Football League: "Pound the Rock."

(By the way, if you're paying close attention, Masket recognizes that his research couldn't find any GOP field offices in Indiana, which is unlikely. He writes: "I'm not sure what's going on with Indiana. I find it unlikely that Romney's team actually has no offices there at all. This could be a record-keeping problem.")

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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