While high profile debates and low flying bi-planes grab our attention, the fate of each US Senate campaign now rests in a little known and rarely covered realm of politics, get out the vote or GOTV.
Getting out your vote, starts first with identifying your vote, a process that can easily take several weeks for a special election and in a regularly scheduled election it takes months of preparation and grunt work leading up to the big day.
So it was ominous sign for the Gomez camp Wednesday when a staffer sent out an email declaring that they had “just got in our first batch of phones and are looking to fill some call shifts…As you can imagine, in this shortened primary season, it is even more important to get calls done and ID voters to come out and vote for Gabriel.”
Campaigns often ignore GOTV tasks for more glorious pursuits that staffers [and reporters] no doubt find more intellectually stimulating, glamorous or just plain easier. Hard to see the fun in door knocking on a cold damp March day.
But ground game failure can often result in complete disaster, as Mitt Romney learned in 2012:
If they’ve been working the phones and doors, as Scott Brown did in 2010, camps should have identified by now a core base of voters highly committed to their candidate on April 30th.
Markey Press Secretary, Andrew Zucker, says the camp has “built the strongest grassroots operation in this state, recruiting more than 5,000 volunteers who have held more than 2,000 voter contact events.”
The Markey camp has staked everything on a boots on the ground GOTV model, highlighted by the camapign’s novel GOTV summit this Sunday to bring “together hundreds of Markey leaders from across the state to prepare for Get Out the Vote.”
The Lynch camp is planning an olde fashioned “word of mouth” effort and declined to detail their GOTV strategy for this story.
Markey has also been significantly helped by the League of Conservation Voters which plans to spend $650,000 to knock 219,000 doors for Ed Markey.
It is a blueprint “local enforcer John Walsh” has used to get everyone from Deval Patrick (talented candidate) to Suzanne Bump (out classed candidate) elected.
Way back in February, WBUR explained the Lynch and Markey approaches:
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In a low turnout special election every volunteer hour wasted holding signs is an hour not spent on direct voter contact. Stand outs have a low rate of return, when the special election audience is so small.
— Fire Fighters of MA (@THE_PFFM) April 10, 2013
On the GOP side, with even a smaller voter pool the race is tougher to read than a Nantucket fog, but one thing is clear the Winslow camp, like Markey, has invested significant resources on GOTV having knocked 6,000 doors and connected 50,000 calls to likely GOP voters.
According to Winslow Communications Director Charlie Pearce, Winslow is the only candidate “in the GOP primary to make a significant investment in a solid ground game. In a campaign that is likely to have only around 200,000 voters this is going to matter. By Election Day we will have personally contacted every likely voter in this state. That will be the difference in our margin of victory.”
Since GOP voters tend to live in suburban neighborhoods phone banking is a more practical direct voter contact tool.
And while the Gomez camp is just now installing phones to conduct voter identification, Alicia Preston of the Sullivan camp said they’ve “knocked on thousands of doors, made thousands of calls, and are very excited with the response we have received.”
Eighteen days to go.
Man up? Dial up!