December 17, 2015

HAVING NEVER RUN ANYTHING LEAVES ONE ILL-PREPARED TO RUN SOMETHING:

Marco Rubio's Lousy Ground Game In Iowa Will Probably Cost Him Votes (JOSHUA DARR, 12/17/15, 538)

There's reportedly a joke going around among Iowa Republicans that Marco Rubio must be running for mayor of Ankeny, the Des Moines suburb where his sole Iowa office is located. Defying Iowa's tradition of retail politics, Rubio also rarely holds campaign events outside of that area and is choosing to invest in television ads over staffers and offices in the state. Rubio is making a deliberate gamble that Iowans will brave the cold on his behalf this Feb. 1 simply because they saw his advertisements or debate performances on television, not because they have seen him in person or heard from his campaign.

The Rubio campaign particularly disdains field offices, the storefronts of retail politics: brick-and-mortar locations where volunteers assemble, local mailings are coordinated and paid staffers work late nights. Deputy campaign manager Rich Beeson has argued that staff can "set up in a Starbucks with wireless and get just as much done." The tasks that staff and volunteers traditionally perform in these offices -- dividing turf for volunteer canvassing, calling prospective voters and distributing information about the candidate -- can now be accomplished using online tools without the cost and hassle of setting up a local presence.

Is Rubio right to bet against field offices? Are physical offices relics of a bygone age of retail politics, and is Rubio simply smart to realize it?

According to political science research, Rubio avoids the establishment of a ground game at his peril. Field offices work because they provide a location for the coordination and training that make voter contact valuable. Campaigns that can contact supporters personally to encourage them to vote should make every effort to do so. Knocking on doors can increase turnout by nearly 10 percent, and effective phone calls can encourage an additional 4 percent of voters to head to the polls. Without a field office in an area, candidates will find it much more difficult to translate these tactics into victory.

Posted by at December 17, 2015 7:23 PM

  

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