Iowa '08 brings unprecedented GOTV efforts
You often hear pundits expounding about a candidate's "organization" as a factor in how well they may do, and particularly in Iowa. Organization is often considered to be a Clinton strong point, due to the extensive connections both Clintons have established over the decades as well as their ties to traditional Democratic organizations.
Edwards too is said to be likely to benefit from the fact that he's already been part of a team that won the Iowa caucuses and thus knows the voters who are most likely to actually go to the caucuses and vote. As noted in a previous post, his campaign has also employed a smaller version of Howard Dean's "fight for every state" strategy for the national party, in that they've made it a focus of their campaign to cover every single rural county in the state.
The Clinton and Obama campaigns are focusing on identifying new voters who've never participated in caucuses before, while the Edwards campaign, curtailed by the fact that they couldn't afford to decline public matching funds as Clinton and Obama have and thus having to operate under spending limits, has chosen to focus on voters who've caucused in the past.
A piece in the New York Times reveals some of the methods candidates are undertaking to get every single potential caucus voter out and voting for their candidate in all 1,781 Iowa precincts, including employing some marketing alchemy to try to scientifically smoke out hapless Iowans who are, at least according to the numbers, more likely to vote for Candidate A, then deluging them with gee-gaws, letters, visits, and entreaties, up to and including shoveling the walks of elderly women who may be reluctant to emerge from their homes if there's snow on the ground on caucus day. (The Clinton campaign has already laid on a supply of shovels for just that purpose.)
If I were an Iowa voter, I'd feign undecided until caucus day and milk the campaigns for everything I could think of. I'd have them shovel my walk, tune up my car, pay for a massage, and if I told them I was going to stay home that day to paint my house, they'd probably take care of that too.
It's beyond insane the amount of money that is spent on campaigns, and Iowa in particular. The money spent per vote figure is going up to the point where the candidates could have just made one of the voter's car payments or bought them a new washer and dryer. It's simply crazy, not to mention a terrible waste of hundreds of millions of dollars that could do so much good spent elsewhere. But that's another matter.
Some of the things campaigns are doing include:
In addition to the snow shovels, the Clinton campaign is also stocked with door hangers printed in extra large type, due to extensive market research showing that,
"...women over 65 were inclined to support her, in particular widows or married women, but only those married to a Democrat or independent. Using that model and state election records, they searched for Iowans who had voted in regular elections but had not caucused." which research has shown to be most likely to vote for her.
"[The Clinton campaign]...contracted with a local supermarket chain to deliver platters of sandwiches for pre-caucus parties at caucus sites late Thursday afternoon. The idea is to entice people to arrive early and thus give Clinton aides time to see who has not shown up and get them to the caucus before the doors close at 7 p.m."
"[The Clinton campaign]...mailed refrigerator magnets marked with the caucus date to the women they have identified as first-time caucus goers who might determine her fate."
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, in the first mailing to first-time caucus goers who pledge to support her, includes porcelain lapel pins identifying them as Clinton supporters. Mrs. Clinton looks for women wearing those pins at her events and praises them for caucusing for the first time.
Mr. Obama is focusing on younger voters, who have brought considerable energy to his campaign but who as a group have not tended to turn out to vote in large numbers in past presidential elections. As supporters walk into a campaign stop for Mr. Obama, separate lines are designated for high school and college students to receive specific instructions for caucus night. After his speech, he holds a brief meeting and photograph session with his young supporters who belong to a program called Barack Stars.
Obama supporters of all ages receive a yellow slip of paper — a “Ticket to Change” — with directions to their caucus site and a telephone hot line (one for each of Iowa’s five area codes) to answer questions.
To expand the universe of caucus participants, the Obama campaign hired Ken Strasma, one of the leading Democratic specialists in finding voters through microtargeting. Maps of Mr. Strasma’s efforts hang throughout the campaign’s state headquarters on Locust Street here, color-coded with shades of prospective pockets of supporters
To find its supporters, the Obama campaign spent months developing models of who their likely supporters would be, focusing particularly on previous caucus voters as well as Iowans who voted in the 2006 governor’s race but had never caucused. Months ago, strategists saw one of the biggest areas of potential supporters to be independent voters under 50, as well as men registered as Democrats.
“What’s the one thing that will determine this election? The campaign that does the best job of turning out the highest percentage of their supporters,” said Mr. Plouffe, the campaign manager for Mr. Obama. “We’re maniacally focused on that.”