2014: A Test For GOP Ground Game Operations

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Nov 04, 2014 5:15 PM
2014: A Test For GOP Ground Game Operations

While Guy wrote what to look for as Election Night 2014 begins, tonight will also be a good gauge to see how Republican ground game efforts have evolved since 2012. After being outmaneuvered by Democrats in the past two election cycles, the GOP has poured millions in revamping their operations in data collection and voter outreach.

Yet, Democrats know that the technology gap can be overcome and are also concentrating on maximizing their data collection efforts to keep their base active and motivated for when Election Day comes. These voter outreach programs to help turn out the base will be critical in tight races such as North Carolina (via NYT):

In few states has the ground game been as intense as in North Carolina, where Ms. Hagan is locked in a close race with Thom Tillis, a Republican. Maria Palmer, a Chapel Hill town councilwoman working a phone bank for Ms. Hagan, understands why, from her outreach to Hispanic voters. “Many of them were not planning on voting,” said Ms. Palmer, who is from Peru. “They’re angry there has been no immigration reform. They’re angry with a lot of things.”

Still, Democrats say their base is easier to find, engage, and turnout:

“There’s a lot more fluidity to the Democratic voting base than the Republican one,” said Mitch Stewart, who ran turnout operations for Mr. Obama’s campaigns.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ramped up its commitment, creating the “Bannock Street project," a multimillion dollar, data-driven effort to persuade, register and turn out voters.

“The easiest way to look at it is our strategy to winning is expanding the voting universe,” said Preston Elliott, Hagan’s campaign manager, in an interview in his Greensboro office. “It’s a little more machineish than just catching a wave and riding momentum.”

Republicans say they are catching up. In Raleigh, campaign workers and volunteers showed off a new smartphone app that helps canvassers target their door knocks. But Republican officials refused to reveal volunteer numbers, paid staff totals, field office locations or a tabulation of voter contacts. Nor would they allow reporters to recount the phone-bank pitch, “the secret sauce,” as they called it.

Democratic groups are also using smartphone technology to make canvassing more efficient. On a Monday night in Durham, Ekundayo Akinloye, a field manager for Working America, the community arm of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., walked in an upscale neighborhood. An iPhone app helped her choose which doors to knock, with a goal of 20 to 30 an hour, and as well as a dozen “IDs” — a voter’s key issue and which candidate he or she is likely to support.

When one voter cited her top concern as “women’s rights, women’s rights, women’s rights,” Ms. Akinloye immediately put the information into her phone, and it was sent to headquarters to refine targeting.

Additionally, campaigns will know what voters read, what they eat, what they use for transportation, and where they work to enhance their digital efforts:

The digital track and chase in eastern Long Island — part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s effort to catch up with Democrats’ sophisticated voter targeting — is an integral part of the modern ground game. Now campaigns know where you eat, what you watch, what you read, where you work, if you commute — and are tracking it in real time, delivering specifically tailored messages to individual voters and hounding them until the ballots are cast.

The National Republican Congressional Committee offered an exclusive look at its efforts in the 2014 cycle, which at its core features the ability to track and target a voter not just across all devices, but also across voters’ daily routines. The Democrats’ own operation is churning as well, but it is the Republicans who feel they have more to prove.

The strategy hits voters with an arc, intended to move them from potentially undecided to guaranteed Republican. First, a voter will see a series of persuasion ads, with the substance of the message progressing only after the voter has seen the previous ad in the sequence. Then, the committee moves to its “get out the vote” phase, perhaps urging someone who has not requested a ballot to do so.

The process starts when the committee ships its voter file, full of personal contact and political information, off to LiveRamp, a data computing company in San Francisco. LiveRamp then matches voters with digital identifiers, browser cookies and mobile IDs; strips the identifying information from the file; and ships the list back to the committee.

But, campaigns should be careful as this can be viewed as an invasion of privacy and turn off voters, as mentioned by the New York Times.

This could be a good test run for Republicans tonight as Americans head to the polls to decide the composition of the next Congress.

Right now, Democrats know they’re in trouble. They’re hoping that women, especially single, college-educated women can help on the margins.

That won’t happen in Kentucky for example; Sen. Mitch McConnell has tied Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes with women voters. His margin of victory will be due to male voters who back him over Grimes by a 10-point margin.

Another question will be how much of an impact the "Obama drag” will have on voters. Amy Walters of the Cook Political Report cited Bloomberg’s Sasha Issenberg who said in his piece:

Looking at these seven states [Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska, and Georgia] it becomes clear how much of the burden of campaigning is on Democrats, a function of both the time and the space in which the 2014 midterms take place. With a higher base in every state covered here other than Louisiana, Republicans simply have less work to do to get to their win number. And historically, the Democrats have had a much more difficult time turning out their base in midterm elections than have Republicans. Republicans generally start their efforts to woo persuadable voters—who are, overwhelmingly, and as is now nearly always the case, slightly older whites—from a stronger position, too. Barack Obama’s broad unpopularity has become a drag on Democrats’ efforts to persuade. The few candidates whom polls suggest have been relatively successful seem to be so because they have succeeded in changing the subject, like North Carolina’s Kay Hagan villainizing opponent Thom Tillis for his cuts to state education budgets.

We shall find out which narrative in the Tar Heel State caught on with voters; the “sins of Raleigh” or Hagan being a rubber stamp for Obama.

Regardless, Obama could potentially be facing record midterm losses tonight.