Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Winning is great, but it's also an intoxicant and it can be a mirage, particularly in America.  We love winners.  We hate losers.  If you win you were right.  If you lose there's nothing valuable to learn.  You saw this for a few years after Dean lost, when insiders would dismiss the internet and say 'Oh well Dean lost so that proves the internet doesn't matter', or when insiders would talk about how Bush used the internet so much better than Kerry did.  I don't think that's true, but the biggest piece of evidence for the Bush team's internet skill was Bush's victory.  That's kind of silly and when the GOP talked of how they dominated the internet they made a miscalculation.

Here's a similar and very real problem we have to tackle - the failure of much of our infrastructure in 2006.

This may be small consolation for Republicans, who lost their Senate and House majorities to the Democrats in the fall 2006 elections, but it could have been a lot worse.

Of the 202 Republicans sworn in Thursday as members of 110th Congress, 15 maintained GOP control of their seats by margins of just 3 percentage points or less. On the other side of the aisle, just two of the 233 members of the new Democratic majority were winners of contests in which they retained their party's control by similarly razor-thin margins.

In the Senate, where Democrats claimed a 51-49 majority with a six-seat net gain, only one seat was maintained by the incumbent party by fewer than 3 points, and it too was won by a Republican: Tennessee's Bob Corker, the former Chattanooga mayor who edged Democrat Harold E. Ford Jr. for the seat that Republican Bill Frist -- the outgoing Senate majority leader -- left open to retire.

While Corker secured a six-year hold on his Senate seat, the close House races will be closely analyzed by strategists of both major parties as they determine which seats to target in the 2008 House campaigns.

On the bright side for the Republicans, their close winners proved their mettle in an unusually tough political environment for their party, and most fended off tough and highly touted Democratic challengers.

The Republicans won nearly all the close races.  That means that we won because of a tidal national wave, and our newfangled databases, field programs, and infrastructure on a national level is not particularly good.  The Republican machine is still superior to ours, and it's not clear if we've even begun to catch up (though I think we have).

There are a few questions someone has to think about:

  1. Is there really an honest conversation about our political operations?  Do we really know what worked and what didn't?  Do we know why lots of our House women lost?
  2. Did the DCCC really make a difference this cycle?  Is the 50 state strategy actually working?
  3. Is it possible that electoral machinery is not that important, and that we place too much importance on cult figures who promise all the answers?
  4. Why is the conversation in the blogs about field so content-poor and difficult to have?
  5. Is our children learning?

Anyway, I don't really have answers.  I am disturbed by all the close losses, and heartened by the victory anyway.  Lots of tools are going to open up now with control of Congress - Republicans won't be able to bribe local groups with earmarks anymore, for starters.  

Still, is our children learning?

Update: It's a great conversation in the comments. There are several reasons I'm skeptical of our 'infrastructure' - on the House side, candidates like Larry Kissell and Eric Massa went wanting for support in the final days even as people like Tammy Duckworth and Ken Lucas were feted with resources. Others like Lois Murphy, Dianne Farrell, Patricia Madrid, and Mary Jo Kilroy did poorly. Tim Mahoney barely beat Mark Foley. It seems like there might be something wrong with the targeting and messaging. More to the point, we really have no idea why these people lost, why we lost these close races, and how the 50 state strategy fits into any of it. There's almost no tranparency in targeting, field, or party building. That's kind of the point of this post. Yes, we won the House and the Senate, let's not have that obscure the need for a lot more information sharing.

Tags: Democrats, rahm emanuel, Republicans (all tags)

Comments

68 Comments

Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

This is absurd.  

Of course there were close, targeted races that Democrats lost -- but expecting a success rate of 100%, especially against some fairly-entrenched incumbents, is unreasonable.  The DCCC did win close races in targeted districts: CT-02, PA-08, AZ-05, etc.  Elsewhere, DCCC targeting yielded margins of surprisingly large proportions -- TX-23, CT-05, IN-08, etc.    

In any case, some of the close races won by Republicans (NY-29, NJ-07, OH-02, NC-08, WY-AL) were not DCCC targets, and others (NM-01, PA-06, VA-02) featured skillful Republicans and often-flatfooted Democrats.  Is the DCCC personally responsible for every gaffe committed by its candidates?

by mccarran 2007-01-05 05:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

what's absurd about asking questions how can we do better?

by bruh21 2007-01-05 06:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

What is absurd is talking about "the failure of much of our infrastructure in 2006."  Obviously, some of those Democratic candidates who lost in close races would make stellar members of Congress and I'm disappointed that they weren't among the crowds of freshmen who were sworn in yesterday.  But I would argue that the infrastructure did not fail.  

It seems to me instead that the various parts of the Democratic Party apparatus (internet activists, party committees, labor unions, etc) should give themselves some credit.  Are there ways to improve?  Yes, of course, and I fully expect that the functioning of the party's electoral machinery WILL improve.  (The GOP parlayed its 2002 success into victory in 2004, for example, even though the national climate was tougher for Republicans in '04 than in '02.)  I just don't think there's any reason to sound the alarm bell like this.  

by mccarran 2007-01-05 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I think one of the major issues that your post fails to address and should really serve to be an enlightnening note to me, you, and others is that we cannot rest on our laurals.  Simply stated, we won several close races and lost several close races.  If we don't conintue to work on ways to improve how we use our tools then we will lose our seats.  Let's not suddenly suppose that history has ended today.

by Mark J. Bowers 2007-01-05 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Ditto. Keep our eyes on the prize. It's a kind of laziness. Speaking of which- it's my issue with continuing to fixate on Bush rather than the GOP. Over at Daily Kos one of the diary's being recommended is one on Bush's poll numbers. Bush isn't running again. Those with the soapbox need to figure out new targets, figure out what went wrong,and figure out what went right. Keep on moving on.

by bruh21 2007-01-05 07:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Exactly!  It goes the same way for the whole impeachment issue.  If we go for impeachment then we bog down the 110th Congress for essentially its entire term.  We will not be able to accomplish the issues that we want to accomplish and instead will be playing the politics of hindsight.  Repair work is looking forward now!

by Mark J. Bowers 2007-01-05 07:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

agree

by bruh21 2007-01-05 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

In 1994, Republicans won a majority of close races (margin under 10,000 votes) taking 25 close races and losing 21.  In 2006, Democrats lost 2/3 of those close races, taking just 12 of 35.

Counting "independent expenditures", Democratic challengers won 21 of 22 races where they outspent Republicans, 43% where they spent 60% to 100% of Republican totals and 1.7% of the races where they spent under 60%.

Too much DCCC money was spent defending relatively safe incumbents including John Salazar, Bennie Thompson, Allyson Schwartz, and Jim Mattheson.

In short, Democrats won strategically but Republicans cut their losses by waging a superior tactical game.  BTW, Dan Massa weny toe to toe with Randy Kuhl, getting 97% of Kuhl's funding.  The guy who was on the short end was Dan Maffei (at least in NY state).  Registration numbers look a lot better in Maffei's district than in Massa's so there was no reason for this shortfall.

If we had done as well in the close ones as we 'should have" in this year, we should have won 10 to 12 more seats.

by David Kowalski 2007-01-05 09:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I believe the article is stating (with difficultly) that races where a Democrat was an incumbent, or where there was a Democratic open seat, were not close compared to Republican seats.

"just two of the 233 members of the new Democratic majority were winners of contests in which they retained their party's control by similarly razor-thin margins."

If that's the case, then duh! Of course Democratic incumbents held their seats very well this year. That's not consolation to Republicans.

Many of the 16 seats we flipped were very close.

by College Progressive 2007-01-05 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Yes.

I don't get the logic of throwing out those seats where the republican incumbent lost by a close margin--particularly Allen and Baucus.

by Valatan 2007-01-05 06:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I don't get the logic either of just looking at the incumbents that held on by narrow margins.  But that was what the CQ piece was all about.

About a month ago, I tried to identify all the House races that had been won by fewer than 10,000 votes.  Assuming I found them all, there were a roughly equal number on both sides - 15 or 16 by each party.  I don't have my notes handy, hence the vagueness, but that was the bottom line.

10,000 votes was generally about 4-5% of the vote, IIRC.

by RT 2007-01-05 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Yeah.  It's crazy.  It just reeks of cherrypicking considering how the democratic effort at defending their seats effectively was very much lauded this season.

by Valatan 2007-01-05 08:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

As far as the Senate races go...

Again, it's no surprise that Democratic incumbents held their seats.

We won most of the close races here though, too

Webb Vs. Allen

McCaskill Vs. Talent

Testers Vs. Burns

Not a big victory for Republicans there, either!

by College Progressive 2007-01-05 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I actually had the opposite reaction when I read this earlier. The fact that there were so many close races in such red districts should encourage us to further embrace the 50 state stategy. The examples in Kentucky, Indiana, and even Kansas helps prove this point. We must, of course, keep seeking great candidates to maintain a majority.

by Russ Jarmusch 2007-01-05 05:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

What is interesting is that the quality (character?) of the candidates and their ability to attract volunteers was so important.  Contrast John Yarmouth and Ken Lucas in Kentucky, for example.  The former had much grass-roots support and not much from the DCCC (and knocked off a perennial target), while Lucas, who was perceived as over the hill, lost to a freshman, despite much DCCC support.  

The DCCC picked some good candidates, but so did the netroots, and more credence should have been given to candidates like Larry Kissell and Jerry McNerney.  Kissell could easily have won with more resources.

And as for women candidates, how many of those  highlighted by the Kos/MyDD group were women?  Only Darcy Burner and Linda Stender.  Neither won, and several other women came even closer, such as Vic Wulsin and Mary Jo Kilroy.  Of course anyone can promote any candidate, but the podium that Kos/MyDD have is pretty significant, and before asking why women candidates didn't do better, look at the percentage of women vs men that the netroots promoted.

Lastly, looking ahead, we will not have electiosn officials in Ohio working against us in 2008, so that should be a prime target area.  Also the Midwest generally.

by Mimikatz 2007-01-05 09:57AM | 0 recs
50-state strategy is long-term

It took the GOP two to three decades to establish itself as the majority party. I'm thrilled that the 50-state strategy seemed to have some benefits already in 2006 (expanding the playing field, forcing the Republicans to play defense in unexpected districts), but it is way too early to judge whether the 50-state strategy is working.

by desmoinesdem 2007-01-05 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: 50-state strategy is long-term

Agreed. Dean himself said that he did not expect to see any gains at the national level for several cycles as a result of the strategy, and that he was surprised when races in Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska became competitive.

by democrattotheend 2007-01-05 06:14AM | 0 recs
Field

"4. Why is the conversation in the blogs about field so content-poor and difficult to have?"

Because most people still don't like to do field and in my experience would rather do virtual phone-banking that canvassing in the cold and the dark. We still need more people to run for precinct positions and to continually pound the pavement (even when there is no election) to form strong, continuous bonds with the community.

We already have the means to elect Democrats everywhere, the precinct system; we just need to use it.

by adamterando 2007-01-05 05:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

Word.

"We still need more people to run for precinct positions and to continually pound the pavement (even when there is no election) to form strong, continuous bonds with the community."

Even.  When.  There.  Is.  No.  Election.

That is the key.  

by Peter from WI 2007-01-05 05:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

as a rejoinder to this, i think weatherunderground is right and there are structural reasons why our discussion of field is so anemic.  some additional thoughts:

1.  very few people actually DO field or know anything about it.  

  1.  the turnover in field people is too high for their to be any real base of expertise outside of the consultants that have a lock on the biz
  2.   field people don't blog.  or at least, most of the field people i know don't.  bloggers seem to have different interests and focuses that don't necessarily overlap with field people.

this all said, i've done a bunch of field.  ok, not a bunch, but enough to be conversant.  but i'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that only a small percentage of DD readers would even be able to join in an illuminating conversation on the subject, despite it being a subject that's sorely in need of discussion, since open source solutions to field problems, coupled with experimentation, are invariably going to be better than whatever our overlords tell us to do.

back to some of your earlier concerns: a lot of shit that we think is there is still not there.  take, for instance, the fact that florida dems got an electronic voter file for the first time this cycle.  all the data that the GOP have been collecting for years is just now being culled on our side.  so our campaigns in the next cycle WILL be more efficient.  but we really do have to keep plugging away.  we benefited from a bad political environment and did not win because of superior organization.  they still had that.

as for the 50-state strategy, this has been the most frustrating thing to watch, namely, the blogophere chanting dean's name and touting the 50-state strategy.  there is absolutely no evidence i've seen produced that our victories had anything to do with the two-year old strategy, which was, in any event, meant to be a long-term venture, the very characteristic most accurately criticized by the establishment.  in the race i was working for, the 50-state strategy played absolutely no role.  i can't even fathom more money having been put into this race (media was totally saturated) and there was no prior DNC presence.  yet we won.

not to be too pessimistic about it, but i think we're in pretty shitty shape still.  i mean, the only reason we won, the issue that polled the hardest our direction, was something the other side had just totally fucked up.  that's a huge thing, but absent the iraq factor, there's no evidence for any bogus realignment, there's no sign that we've developed the infrastructure to compete with GOP money, and in fact there remains substantial evidence that their base is still bigger and albeit less motivated than ours.  that can be turned around in a matter of one cycle, so we'd better be working our balls off to reach parity.

ok, enough of a rant.  but i don't think we have anything in the bag.  i definitely don't have the same rose-colored glasses on about the next senate cycle and we've got several EXTREMELY vulnerable house members.  mahoney, lampson, hell, rodriguez, hall.  

by beyondo98 2007-01-05 05:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

Ok, there's at least three of us here. So let's talk field for a minute.

What vendor did you use for a voter file or was it provided to you? For me, our county party had nothing and the state party (IL) is a joke although Durbin's office did send someone to the party meeting to talk about field which was helpful to some people.

I ended up using Aristotle to get the voter file. It was only $25 and worked pretty well. Other than that I built our voter list fromt he ground up based on our local county clerk's voter list. Then we cleaned it up based on our own personal knowledge and from canvassing. My mom did almost all the canvassing since I'm in school several states away (and she is the PCO).

I still need to get prior years voter results to compare what we did this year, but based on extrapolations from past years (from the broader datasets that I do have) I think we did very well this year. I would expect to do better next time
but probably will get diminishing returns since people this time were really excited to vote and were equally excited that someone from the party actually went to talk to them.

Once the weather turns nice again and the days get longer (no streetlights in our town so it's harder to canvass in the dark, especially for middle-aged ladies) we'll start up the canvassing again and do it probably once a month.

I found that 5 good volunteers are necessary per precinct to get saturation. We did not have that, so we did not have total saturation. On election day, I found myself doing the entire phonebank after 5 pm to remind people to vote. Therefore I didn't get all the way through. But it still helped. And we'll do better next time.

Some helpful resources online I found were the Thurston County Democrats website and a paper done for the Michigan Democratic Party on the efficacy of their ground game in 2002 in getting Granholm elected (and the fact that face-to-face contact still gets the most bang-for-the-buck in votes for the candidate).

My own personal canvassing experience started when I worked for my girlfriend when she ran a Fund for public interest research office. That's helped immensley in knowing how to run a canvass, what to say, when to do it, etc.

Anybody else have better ideas on field or on vendors to use for voter lists?

by adamterando 2007-01-05 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

this stuff gets expensive quickly.  if memory serves, we were shelling out 65K for use of the Voter Activation Network down in FL.  it was a coordinated effort through the FDP, and the file was maintained in Tallahassee, so we did our one-stop shopping there.  i imagine there are probably cheaper and more efficient ways to do things, but the centralization has the added benefit that all of the data will remain for all succeeding campaigns.

by beyondo98 2007-01-05 07:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

I'm in Lois Murphy's district (PA-06) and I've done "expert" volunteer stints working with the campaign for the last 3 elections (having run my own campaign for PA state senate in '92 and volunteered for local & national campaigns before & since).

In '02, '04 & '06 the campaign supplied all the lists & did all the targeting. The models were a bit different from one to the next, but the huge missing link, IMO, was/is the availability of really quality, trained volunteers. Campaigns never have the time/money to really train their volunteers, but they also don't pay anywhere near enough attention to doing so.

What is the value of a volunteer who makes 100 totally ineffective door knocks vs. one who is able to, for example, turn the robo-call innundation attack against the GOP?

One of the really important goals of DFA (set by Gov. Dean of course) is to get thousands upon thousands of grassroots volunteers fully trained in campaign ins & outs. Accomplishing this will reap huge benefits across every campaign.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-05 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

true that.  to add, it's only recently that we've developed a substantial non-union volunteer base.  so what DFA is doing is crucial.  i don't have much more to add, but you're absolutely right.  we need volunteers who can pivot at the door, talk about things that might not be in their script.  that comes with experience and, yes, training.

by beyondo98 2007-01-05 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: that comes with experience and, yes, training

A really important ancillary aspect of DFA & similar groups is that it gives experienced volunteers a home, a community to hang out with that keeps them around, engaged and involved so that we retain that experience and have it available from campaign to campaign.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-05 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

Your point about effective canvassers vs. poor canvassers is crucial. This also gets to the point of political education. We know it is easy to bat away GOP arguments because we are very well informed and we have copious amounts of information that we constantly follow to keep up to date and to hone our arguments.

Training is crucial. How centralized should the training be? Should the orders come down from the DNC that training is mandatory for PCOs and volunteers but that the political education is up to each state party? Or each county party? Or each precinct officer? Or is it the responsibility of the DNC to provide detailed information on how to train and how to refute common GOP talking points (perhaps updated monthly as needed? some of these counterpoints should not have to change (i.e. refuting the tripe that tax cuts lead to revenue growth))?

The other issue is that training does take time. And it takes practice. You can't expect all people to go out there and be good at canvassing after a 20 minute presentation. Maybe that's why our local congressional candidate decided to forgo canvassing this time, they thought they didn't have the time or money to train volunteers. My feeling is that if I was in charge of the campaign, I would have made time and money to train the volunteers.

by adamterando 2007-01-05 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: How centralized should the training be?

Decentralized is the only way to go IMO. Local idiosyncrasies must be taken into account.

I think the DFA/LFA model, require local group to organize/schedule the training and then provide top-quality people to do it, is a good one. DFA's Night School program is a good supplement - not as good as being at a training with back-and-forth that occurs, but a great adjucnt to spread the wealth of knowledge.

Grassroots for America's Root Camp project (I'm a GFA board member) is another important piece of the puzzle (IMHO of course!) as well. RC participants create/aggregate grassroots training content & tools for use by local grassroots leaders to help them train their local members.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-05 09:16AM | 0 recs
Re: How centralized should the training be?

by adamterando 2007-01-05 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: How centralized should the training be?

Sorry for the blank response.

Anway, what I was going to say is that I also think decentralization is very important, but I think it could be valuable for the DNC to provide an initial training manual complete with talking points/political education (that are updated as needed) that can serve as a basis for the precinct or county chairs but that can be easily modified/added to, or deleted as needed. That way we could get the infrastructure up and running nationwide. If local PCOs have a better way of doing things (and I stress BETTER, not just THEIR way of doing things) more power to them. But we need to help out the PCOs so we don't have 50,000 precincts starting from scratch (as I had to).

Basically I want some DNC help besides the absurdly general things they have on the website  and the nice flyers and doorhangers you can print out.  

by adamterando 2007-01-05 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: DNC provide training materials

No disagreement - Root Camp is just our Deaniac way of not waiting for the powers that be to wake up. We just went ahead and started to do it.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-05 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: DNC provide training materials

Do you guys have any access to the good Doctor/governor himself? Or do you think he's trying to implement all this stuff already (it just ain't there yet)?

by adamterando 2007-01-05 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Calling Dr. Dean, Calling Dr. Dean

He has been known on occassion to respond to an e-mail, though he's so busy it can be hard to get his attention.

Sometimes it's better to chase after Tom McMahon, DNC's Exec.

No way to know for sure if this is already on the plate without asking. I guess what we'd prefer is for the DNC to provide funding for us to manage the project - I think we'd do a bang-up job if we could pay one of our folks to ride herd on it.

Drop me an e-mail jsmagid at grassrootsforamerica dot us.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-05 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Calling Dr. Dean, Calling Dr. Dean

willdo

by adamterando 2007-01-05 12:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Field

Amen, beyondo98. Our electronic files are still a work in progress.

I've done some field in our district too and realize there's a lot to be desired in how we do things. DFA has some good training (take it, if it comes to your town), but there aren't enough people who want to do field and stay with it. It's not a glamour gig.

In western NC we did a "Buma Shave" style campaign to raise our profile in areas where Dems had been too quiet for too long. Got great response in some areas (and ticked off the GOP for daring to show up in "their" counties), but got pushback from some of our own folks. The old guard tends to resist doing anything they're not familiar with and aren't in control of. New ideas? New techniques? "But we've never done it that way!?"

Longtime workers in some of our county parties thought we were nuts this fall when we we asked them to do more than they were used to. (Winning may have changed their opinions, though.)

Our efforts this fall show we can win even in a tough district. My question is where do you and I go to find out what's new and cutting edge in getting out the vote? Inquiring minds want to know.

by Undercover Blue 2007-01-05 07:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Field

god, to think about what goes on in field in alaska is a travesty.  my brother-in-law is up there and tells me it's still a bunch of 60 year-old ladies working with index cards as a voter file.  obviously knowles would have done better if they'd had something other than an abacus, but these ladies were also resistant to change.  with any luck, the 50-state strategy will introduce some of these changes nationwide.

ultimately, i think the stuff is there that we need to make our field operations work and it's mostly about money, technology sharing, and a willingness to break down institutional resistance to reform.  i mean, we can talk til we're blue in the face (and we should) about how to improve our field ops, but the main problem is that even the things we know work aren't being used everywhere.

by beyondo98 2007-01-05 08:00AM | 0 recs
College Dems' GOTV

At my college in Pennsylvania this year, I personally designed the GOTV strategy for campus.  What we did was:

1) Set up a dorm captain system, modeled on the precinct captain system.  We had 1-2 people in charge of each dorm. They were told to register everyone, keep track of their leanings (on a 1-5 scale) and note whether anyone needed absentee applications.  

2) Convince people to not only register, but register in the college's town, so that they didn't have to worry about absentees.  

3) We tried to build a master email list of all liberal-leaning groups on campus (Dems, Students for Environmental Action, ACLU, etc) as well as a separate list of swing groups or ones to reach out to (the Catholic group, especially with Casey being Catholic, was the big one).  

4) Using this list, we sent a few reminder emails (about deadlines and Election Day).  More importantly, though, we made handwritten, colorful notes that we sent to everybody reminding them to vote.  Don't underestimate this part.  For a college student, mail is rare.  Colleges aren't recruiting us anymore, so that one yellow piece of paper will really brighten our day.  Also, the handwritten part was vital.  We were asking not for votes in general, but Sally's personal support and help.

5) We coordinated to have 1 essay per week published, on a different topic, in the campus newspaper.

6) We have a debate every semester between the College Dems and College Repubs.  This fall, we had it less than a week before Election Day.  It got everybody really excited before the last push.

7) The night before the Election Day, dorm captains slipped reminder fliers under the door of every Dem-leaner in the building.

As a result of our efforts, we actually had a higher turnout in our precinct in 2006 than in 2004.  This may be due to the fact that more people were registered in Meadville rather than at home, so perhaps overall turnout for the student body wasn't as high, but the town still noticed.  I'm really proud of what the group accomplished.  There are a few areas I think we could improve in, though.

1) I didn't as close a track on the dorm captains as I should have.  So how much work they did, I'm honestly not sure, particularly with the dorm storm the night before Election Day.

2) Our attempts to create a database of students kind of fell flat.  Official voting rolls are extremely out of date (as is the case with any college town).  What we would have liked to do is come up with a list, sorted by class, of who is registered and who is not, who is conservative and who is liberal.  That way, when 2008 rolls around, we know who's still on campus, and who we need to register and we're not rebuilding.  

3) We didn't have as many bodies as we needed, despite the large turnout early on. This made it particularly hard to help the county party out with canvassing down there.  We thought that assigning tasks at the first meeting would keep people active, and it did, but not as much as we would have liked.

I'd love to hear other College Dems' stories or suggestions/ideas.  Hope ours has been helpful.

by conantd 2007-01-05 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I don't think this is an imminent problem, but it's certainly something to be wary of. We can't expect every election to be a wave election, and if 2006 turns out to be the high tide of Democratic votes/dissatisfaction with Republicans then field needs to be drastically improved to keep the 50 state strategy working.

Right now, however, it's clearly working. Had the old strategy of focusing been used, we might have narrowly won IL-06 after another $5m got spent there, but we wouldn't have been half so competitive across the country.

Granted, our performance in red areas like Idaho and Wyoming was largely down to facing terrible candidates, but improved Democratic performance in rural areas in general suggests that the 50 state strategy is a step forward compared to the old way of doing things.

by Englishlefty 2007-01-05 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

"4. Why is the conversation in the blogs about field so content-poor and difficult to have?"

As a Democrat, I am so discouraged about this subject.  It's as if the exhortation "Build a field organization" is some sort of magical incantation, and poof! When it's said enough times, a winning field operation appears and goes to work.

I hate sports analogies, but I'm going to use one, probably badly.  One of my offspring is internationally-ranked in his sport.  He has a natural affinity for it, and with a lot of sacrifice, we were able to afford him pursuing it.  But what we couldn't find for the longest time was a coach who could work with him as he was, develop him into what he could be, and stick with him when  he didn't win every time.  Coaches had their favorites, you see, and would not take on a threatening newcomer.  So for years, he played on the fringes of greatness, sometimes brilliantly, sometimes disappointingly.  Until the heavens finally sent him a rookie coach who after a season, decided to really study this kid, how he lives, what drives him, what he actually could do rather than what the coach wanted him to do.  After a few months, this coach's field operation changed, and the kid began to win consistently.

When Mr. dks decided to run for state office last year, we met a lot of really nice and emotionally supportive consultants.  Their advice consisted of  "Register with the TEC.  Get a field operation."  I went to a seminar for compaign workers that basically said the same thing.  It was consultants  not telling us how to build a field operation, but telling us how necessary they were.  DemFest '05 was similar, only it had celebrities there saying the same thing.  What we needed was a Field Operation Cookbook, and we got passion.  Mr. dks is a specialist in making a meal for 100 with a chicken, a tomato and some foragers; but he had no cookbook and no foragers.  To mix metaphors.

So what I would really like to see is these consultants out there not hoarding their plans, their knowledge, their experience, but sharing it.  I'd like to see some real discussion on what a 21st century Democratic field operation would look like at the local, state and federal level.  I am sick of the hoarding of information, lists, ideas, and money.  There is plenty of all of it.  The problem is prying it from selfish hands afraid of scarcity.

by dksbook 2007-01-05 05:54AM | 0 recs
It's Always Good To Question Like This

Let me start by stating that I dont necessarily agree with your premise, which I take to be that because many Rs won by close margins, their "ground game" or campaign in general was better then ours.  Hypothetically, one can certainly imagine the possibility that ours was superiour but it was only good enough to get us close in many races.  I am not saying this is true, Im only saying that your premise is not necessarily true either.

But the main point I want to make is that I agree that we constantly need to analyse these question.  You are absolutely right that the tendency when a party wins is to pat itself on the back and believe that its strategic and tactical decision were correct and to overly rely on them in the future.  All one has to do is look at how cocky Rove and the RNC were about their polical operation to see how dangerous this is.

All political ideas and strategies, including the 50 state strategy, need to be constantly reviewed and measured.  The two worst sins in politics are, ironically, over confidence-which breeds sloppiness and mistakes and under confidence- which breeds timidity and wrongly adopting your opponent's positions and ideas.  We need to avoid both.

by Andy Katz 2007-01-05 05:57AM | 0 recs
What you are looking for is an After Action report

something that is done by any professional organization to improve upon its overall performance by identifying its strengths and weaknesses.

The data is available to empirically test whether or not what we did mattered....in other words:

What worked and what didn't...

But it is hidden behind a wall of professional class operatives who gets jobs based upon the "spin" of their performances, rather than any actual "analysis" of their performance.

Any step in the analytical direction will be fiercely resisted from the top of the party structure all the way down to the lowest envelope licker on a race for drain commissioner.

The goal should be to make individuals like Dr. Dean and elected officials understand that in order to do better, we have to make these kinds of assessments...

And if they still resist, point out to them that the Republicans in fact do this very thing, which is why they pants us time and time again...

by Nazgul35 2007-01-05 06:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

god, OK, i need to add one more thing because i think the most important point is that we DO need to have a discussion about field.  perhaps, matt, the solution is to actively seek out people to have a discussion about field.  i don't know how often this goes on in the big leagues, but out here, i've seen no concerted effort to get people in on the discussion, just an expectation that, as with everything else on blogs, if we build it they will come.  well, maybe people need to be invited.  create a special forum, blog, side project or whatever and solicit people's input.  

i mean, field encompasses a lot of shit, and there are a lot of questions that need to be asked specifically.  how do we improve phone-banking?  what are the best strategies for recruiting volunteers or paid canvassers?  how do we convince candidates to do canvassing given that it's proven effective?  how do we convince field people to share information?  eg. if someone has a kickass canvassing script for a race, why not have that thing made available on some database for people to download and make use of?  how do we create continuity in field?  more money?  more cigarettes?

there's a ton there, and people are willing to talk about it.  but i think we need specific fora for these questions, not vague invocations to discussion.

by beyondo98 2007-01-05 06:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

"how do we convince candidates to do canvassing given that it's proven effective? "

You ain't kiddin about that. Our congressional candidate's campaign (I doubt it was the candidate himself) decided that they weren't doing canvassing this time around. They were just doing lit-drops! If I had been campaign manager, I would have my volunteers out doing precincts every day they were in there and also I would have been in constant contact with the county chairs and I would have been on the phone with every democratic precinct chair to get them on board with a canvassing plan (here's a question, are there legality issues with candidates directly strategizing with precinct officers to get them involved with canvassing plans for the candidate?)
But alas, no such thing happened. I've also found that the older a volunteer is, it is often harder to get them to do what their supposed to. This goes with basic stuff such as checking off addresses you've been to and people you've actually talked to. This makes organization a nightmare and by the end of the campaign you start to hate middle-aged women (I say this in jest of course!) but you do what you can.

I think there is definately a problem with underfunded campaigns that they cannot afford campaign managers with lots of experience and thus  they end up hiring inexperienced campaign managers that lots of times do not know how to, or do not know the value of field campaigns.

One example I saw from afar that showed the benefit of a well-funded campaign with an experienced(?)campaign staff: Patrick Murphy. Reading psifighter's experiences I came away with the distinct impression that the Murphy campaign recognized the VALUE of field and KNEW how to do field. And what was the result? They won a VERY close race. I have no doubt the field campaign made the difference in the campaign.

Campaigns ignore field at their own peril.

by adamterando 2007-01-05 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

We did win VA and MT, which were the two closent Senate races, last time I checked.  And MO was fairly close as well.  I think we did just fine when it came to the razor thing margin races in the Senate.  Perhaps we didn;t do quite as good in the House, but I think the article overstates its thesis.

by pontificator 2007-01-05 06:10AM | 0 recs
NY29

The race in NY29 was very winnable, despite being a historically Republican district. In the last two weeks Randy Kuhl ran an awfully hypocritical TV ad series lauding Kulh's support of Social Security and condemning Eric Massa for his SS positions.

You could tell the ads were having an effect from call feedback.  Seniors were worried that Massa would take away their Social Security.  It's an old trick, and it worked once more.

Of course the truth was Kuhl hosted Bush in Rochester on Bush's Social Security tour. He was hardly a Social Security supporter.

You could have prepared the response piece a year ahead. Unfortunately, no response was ever aired. Money? No response strategy? I don't know for sure.

I do believe Eric Massa would have won if Kuhl had not demagogued the Social Security issue OR if Eric had a response prepared and the money to air it. In upstate NY, it wouldn't have needed a lot of money.

Any 2008 strategy should comprehend that there are winnable seats that could use some support at the end of the campaign. The Republicans were lucky to pull NY29 out of the fire. (NY29 made the 2006 election bittersweet for me. NY26 also).

We have to learn how to 'out finish' the Republicans. They are VERY GOOD in the last two weeks. Lack of scruples enhances that ability.

by scarfiotti 2007-01-05 06:28AM | 0 recs
Re: NY29

I also think that Massa needed to be significantly mroe aggressive in attacking Kuhl, not the man although there are significant things to attack him on that front, but on his positions.  Kuhl voted against the interests of his consitutents time and time and time again yet they still voted for him.  Massa took Monroe county by an extreme margain, but lost by a boatland everywhere else.  His district is so sprawling that it is going to be very very very difficult to take NY29 any time in the near future.  Yes we have made strides, but every election that Kuhl wins, in a manner of sense, makes him stronger and less likely to lose.  NY-29 hurts me too, but the real lose in the region wa NY-25, which is something that really should have been won.  Mafei carried Monroe and Onondaga county, but was crushed in Cayuga county.  It seems pretty clear that we need to make further in roads in the country.

by Mark J. Bowers 2007-01-05 07:19AM | 0 recs
Re: NY29

Mark,
I agree with your comments.  I liked Maffei quite a lot and contributed significantly to his campaign.  I was disappointed that Kuhl's lies were believed by so many voters. (1500 or so turned the election).

Kuhl will be stronger next time; I'd like to see his positions exposed more aggressively, as you said.

by scarfiotti 2007-01-05 11:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

We also won because of the quality of Dem candidates,  the branding of the Dem Party--populism and finally, Dem candidates offering an alternative or disagreeing  on Iraq instead of skirting the issue

If we concentrate on this--getting good quality candidates and Dems do a good job and talk about it and have visibility--then 2008 will be good.  

At the same time rebuild and grow  the Committees and infrastructure.

by jasmine 2007-01-05 06:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Matt, I don't necessarily buy the premise that the GOP machine is superior to ours.  At the very least, I don't think the evidence you cite proves GOP field superiority.  There are a number of explanations as to why we didn't win more of the races where GOP incumbents held on by razor thin margins--the GOP incumbents were more politically skilled, the district was simply too Republican for a Dem to win even in a wave year, the voting machines malfunctioned, etc.  There's probably a unique explanation for each district and perhaps in some districts stronger GOP field was the decisive factor.

All that said, it's still very important to discuss how we can improve our overall field/infrastructure/databases/volunteer networks.  I just haven't seen any real evidence that the framework for the discussion needs to be, "we need to catch up to the GOP..."  

I think one reason the conversation on blogs about field is so content-poor is the absence of independent/reliable/comprehensive data on field programs and the degree to which the absence of data limits useful analysis.  You can tell a lot about the health of your field program by looking at numbers like how many volunteers you've recruited, how many phone contacts you've made, how many door-to-door contacts you've made, etc. We have no idea what those #s really are, nor do we know how those numbers compare to past elections or how they compare to the GOP #s.  

I imagine it's hard to come by reliable and comprehensive data about field programs because:

1. Our field operation is made up of a variety of groups (the party committees, labor, MoveOn, etc.) so pulling together comprehensive data is inherently difficult.  

2. Any data about field that's made public is usually in the context of press releases ("we knocked on 2 million doors this weekend!") that are inherently designed to puff up the impact of the field program--I really question the extent to which data released in this context is reliable.  

This is why I never really believed all the huffing and puffing about the "superior" GOP machine.  Really, we have no quantifiable way to tell which machine is superior.  Election results alone are not reliable evidence of field superiority, since field is only one of a large # of factors that influence the outcome of elections (quality of candidates, fundraising, quality of media, etc.).  

by dal27 2007-01-05 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Some won out of pure luck and a national tidalwave, some won due do the efforts of the DCCC/DSCC and other won because they were simply very good campaigners.

In the first category I would place Nick Lampson and Nancy Boyda who won due to scandals, and in Lampson's case, a former opponent's name staying on the ballot. Ciro Rodriguez clearly owes his victory to the DCCC and the immigration issue. In the final category, Claire McCaskell and Jerry McNerney ran outstanding campaign backed up by top-class grass-roots efforts.

2006 was a perfect storm for us.

by RandyMI 2007-01-05 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Let me pull out a quote here:

most fended off tough and highly touted Democratic challengers.

The whole problem with this post lives inside that quote.  Incumbents start with an 8-10 point advantage.  This post appears to bemoan the fact that Republicans were better dogfighters;  but in fact you're comparing the historically narrow successes of Republican incumbents with the historic failure of Republican challengers.   We need to restate what happened:

Republican incumbents lost about 30 races, and nearly lost about 15 more

Democratic incumbents lost no races, winning consistently by wide margins.

conversely,

Republican challengers engaged only two close contests

Democratic challengers engaged in nearly fifty close contests, winning about 60% of them.

I'll take them odds.

by Professor Foland 2007-01-05 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

That's a good way of re-framing it, Professor.

by RT 2007-01-05 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

a lot of the commentary on this thread is a bunch of back-slapping without much substance.  

as to dal27's doubt that the GOP machine isn't better than ours, it absolutely is, and for one reason: money.  we almost reached financial parity with those guys, but there can be no doubt that those extra margins matter.  a lot.  it means a dozen more robocalls, 500 more paid canvassers, more TV, etc.  

dal27 also noted that our field operation is made up of a bunch of different groups.  true enough.  and that hadn't yet actually proven itself to be advantageous.  moveOn and ACT can't advocate for a specific candidate or party at the door or on the phone, so their turnout capacity depends on identifying reliable Dem voters.  fine, but they're useless at persuasion, and in tight races, we need persuasion.

as for the GOP data like the 2 million doors, yeah, it's bullshit.  all lies.  for sure.  but so is our public data.  so there's no reason to doubt that the GOP machine is better than ours on this basis.

i'm sorry, but anyone knocking doors this cycle HAS TO KNOW THAT IRAQ WON US THE ELECTION.  period.  i mean, yes, there were other local issues, but absent the iraq catastrophe, we would have lost.  katrina was, frankly, nothing.  no one vote on katrina, and at best we have circumstantial, emotive evidence that katrina left people with an impression of incompetence on the part of the GOP.  whatevs.  that's speculation not at all borne out by the numbers we polled.

without the iraq war, we win nothing.  we still have to push as hard as we can for improvements in our operations.

meanwhile, dks book has, i think, the best suggestion, which is a higher level of information sharing.

by beyondo98 2007-01-05 07:13AM | 0 recs
Field, field, field

As someone who's done field for over 10 years, to me campaigns come down to field organizing.

As Peter from WI and weatherunderground have said, we have the infrastructure, in terms of the precinct system. What I would change is the focus from precinct management to neighborhoods.

Folks don't think in terms of precincts; they think in terms of neighborhoods. Establishing and polishing such an infrastructure will allows, at the least, to keep pace with the GOP.

There's another point that dal27 brings up, which is that our field programs are run by outside groups. We lack an organic 24/7/365 program to inculcate people in the party. There's a qualitative difference between a stranger from MoveOn and your next-door neighbor. Many of our local and state organizations go dark--literally--in between elections, particularly in red states. Before we can talk about victory, we need to address that.

by Arkhangel 2007-01-05 07:20AM | 0 recs
Re: our local and state organizations go dark

This has been a primary focus of DFA and LFA (Latinos for America), among others, and Gov. Dean is slowly but surely infusing it into DNC activities as well - to get individuals at the grassroots involved, trained and knowledgable - to create institutional capabilities that survive the campaign season. It's a large part of what the 50-state strategy program funded staff are doing at the state level and at least some states are working to duplicate at the county level.

Smart (IMO of course) campaigns look for DFA/LFA trained volunteers who know what they are doing and can help train inexperienced volunteers. A field program that can be executed with the aid of a cadre of experienced volunteers is going to be way more effective than one without.

I've always (since DFA started) thought that this, along with getting people to run for local office, is the most important long-term aspect of DFA's activities. Local Party organizations have traditionaly been lousy at growing a trained volunteer base, for a whole host of reasons. I think it'd be great if the netroots can find ways to partner with DFA, LFA, PDA, whoever, to expand these kinds of efforts.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-05 08:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Field, field, field

Ark, I think your idea about neighborhoods is worth exploring; precincts used to be neighborhoods, now they are just political boundaries hammered out at the state level.

In my precinct there is such a diversity of neighborhoods - socio-economic, rural-urban and particularly religious, I despair of ever finding a way to organize it to its full potential.  And the only thing that bound progressives together in my little part of SoTX was sentiment against the war.  Everyone, even 99% of the few D's in my precinct, distrust Dems - they just have reason to distrust the R's more right now.  We have got to look at elections as the end-point of our organizing, the way the christofascists look at babtism as the end result of evangelization.  The community has to exist before the election, you can't make a community out of an election.

by dksbook 2007-01-05 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I agree that Iraq helped substantially as did scandal fatigue, but so did candidate selection. Rahm recruited Heath Shuler for NC-11, and while the far left looks at him sideways, he's a good fit for a district with of lots of Reagan Democrats we needed to win back.

But we also had the best field operation we've ever had and the GOP here had squat. (They carpetbombed the district with robocalls, which seems to have backfired.) Move-On had a very large bank of vols here, and for those averse to Shuler's conservative social positions (he ran on populist positions) it gave them someplace they could be comfortable being active.

But as someone who lives for being on the front lines, I want to try new things, experiment (see my earlier post), and trade info with others about what does and doesn't work. Too many county organizations get to October and simply crank up the same old signs-and-phone banking operations they've always used (and until this cycle have routinely lost with). We can do better, and this time we did do better, but it's not nearly enough.

by Undercover Blue 2007-01-05 07:58AM | 0 recs
Comparitive campaigns

I'm in PA-06 where we lost by <3% with over $2MM spent while we won in PA-07 next door and PA-08, the other side of Philly.

Ok, Joe Sestack was the happy beneficiary of the Weldon FBI implosion, but was able to take advantage because of an aggressive, campaign fueled in the early stages by the grassroots with straight-at-you ads.

Early CW was that Joe was a great candidate and would give Weldon a run for his money but probably fall short, result? Big win going away.

CW on Patrick Murphy was similar - smart, capable, young Iraq vet up against a seasoned, well-liked, well-funded politico who could win if everything fell into place. Running on grassroots fumes at the outset, Pat got the best surf board he could find (lots of hard work, a reasonable amount of early money, lots of it from the Netroots, lots of local grassroots boots, hard-hitting, in-your-face ads) paddled his board out and turned at just the right moment to catch the wave. Result? Win by a nose.

CW on Lois Murphy? DCCC target from the day after the '04 election, going to raise a ton of $$, top-tier DC consultants, Rendell's support, sure thing to get over the hump in '06 - not. Lots of attention paid to the Philly area pooh-bahs, lots of high $ fundraisers, lots of high-profile campaign stops, cookie-cutter ads that fell flat or worse, no buzz, no mind (above some of the 1st level field staff who were great) paid to experienced local volunteers, no process for testing campaign plan assumptions nor feedback loop to enable adjusting the plan under stress. Result? Crushing (emotionally) defeat & a textbook example for the updated edition of Crashing the Gate on what's wrong with homoginized DCCC-style consultant-run campaigns.

by Joe in Wynnewood PA 2007-01-05 08:10AM | 0 recs
A 49-LD Strategy

In Washington State, we are talking about taking the 50-State strategy down a level and working on a 49-LD strategy - LD being Legislative District in case other states don't use that term.

Our closest Congressional race in WA-08, which Darcy Burner lost by less than 3 points, is a case in point.  We didn't have any Democrats running in one of the LD's in her district so no Democrats were out campaigning there.  Darcy's campaign ran a reasonably good field operation but without the help of the local Democrats, we didn't hit enough houses in that portion of the district.  Plus we need to get even the more rural, redder LD's listening to the Democratic message at the local level even if it takes a while to get any Democratic legislators elected in those areas.

by lynnallen 2007-01-05 08:12AM | 0 recs
In Ohio, probably, not so much ...

... if what I experienced when calling on a list that was supposedly filtered for Democratic voters (in NE Ohio) is any indication (and comments from other volunteers suggested it was normal for our county at least), the positive way to put it is that the Ohio democratic party has a lot of room for improvement.

OTOH, the state democratic party has been famous over the last decade for being unable to organize a beer bash in a brewery, so maybe what I saw was a big improvement.

by BruceMcF 2007-01-05 08:18AM | 0 recs
stinking pile of pooh

Which is better, to have a better operation according to the media and be left with a stinking pile of pooh after the election, or have a worse operation and still win, and then be the golden boy where you can claim that it wasn't the party that pulled us through it was the people.

Sometimes being perceived as being weak is actually a strength.  People "misunderestimate" you.  When you win, it is a bigger story, and you can make up reasons why you won. Being a weak operation and winning is a big story.  Being a strong operation and winning isn't a story at all.  My favorites:

1. It was a tidal wave, we now have a mandate, the people have spoken.  The people liked our message better.  The people don't want to be more conservative.

2. Republicans have a great machine and some of the best political minds but are too corrupt, immoral, conservative, obnoxious, et cetera.  Tar and feather them with excuses why they didn't win when they supposedly had the money and the best operation.

3. The Republicans have the best political minds, but they are no match for the American people.  The people don't want Washington politicians, they want real Americans.  We are the underdog and we overcame insurmountable odds to come to victory.

by pjv 2007-01-05 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I worked in as a volunteer in three districts outside my own safe district, primarily because I wanted to get my own take on what the rest of the country was thinking.  I have no idea how productive my efforts were.  I would like to know.  Two of my three candidates lost, by close margins.  Could our canvassing have been more effective if we had done.... something else?  I would like to know.  I canvassed with computer lists that didn't get the streets right, noted the people who didn't live there any more, or voted Republican, etc. but I don't know if anybody has learned how to improve the targeting, identify and motivate the volunteers or properly interpret the results.

Good points above on the factors involved in why we have so little reliable, fact-based information about voting results.  I learned a lot from the posts.  I agree that the 2006 results were encouraging but not intoxicating.  Despite the "optimistic" comments above, our success was based on a public opinion sea change, not organizational effectiveness.  We can't expect to repeat that luck in 2008, 2010, 2012, etc.  Long-term political success is built on factors we can control, like field operations supported by first-class research, not on ephemeral public opinion.  If one percent of the resources devoted to opinion polling before the election could be allocated to collecting and disseminating facts about the actual results, I believe we would live in a different political universe.  

I can't say where you were, weatherunderground, but my experience doesn't confirm your take on older women.  Being over 60 myself, I had opportunities - in all three of my campaigns, plus a couple of phone banks - to see hyperthyroid young "organizers" and campaign "coordinators" slobbering over pretty young things who didn't exactly call everyone on the list or make it past the first page of the canvassing roster - but who gave hardly a glance to us old bags who handed in complete rosters with the results accurately recorded, and notes where the computer was wrong.  One guy smilingly threw the sheets in the trash as we handed them in.  Really.

Finally, who says we lost those close elections?  It's one thing to accept a close legal determination, but it's Stockholm Syndrome to believe it, and let it influence our strategic judgments.  Close elections are the ones they can steal.  As a lesson learned, one aspect of field operations needs to be a more aggressive watch on the actual voting and vote-counting processes.  These are essentially unmonitored at the precinct level, especially where the voter machines rule.  Mail votes and early voting are a growing segment of the total vote, but who monitors those counts?  We devote most of our end-game field resources to getting people to the polls, but how many organizations have someone outside EVERY polling place politely (and skillfully) asking how you voted, or staying as late as it takes to watch the download and ballot-counting?  The rule should be, as bitter experience has taught, Win by at least 5%, otherwise the Republicans will steal it.  

by Lois2001 2007-01-05 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

"I can't say where you were, weatherunderground, but my experience doesn't confirm your take on older women.  Being over 60 myself, I had opportunities - in all three of my campaigns, plus a couple of phone banks - to see hyperthyroid young "organizers" and campaign "coordinators" slobbering over pretty young things who didn't exactly call everyone on the list or make it past the first page of the canvassing roster - but who gave hardly a glance to us old bags who handed in complete rosters with the results accurately recorded, and notes where the computer was wrong.  One guy smilingly threw the sheets in the trash as we handed them in.  Really."

I believe you. I don't think any one demographic group has a lock on ineptness. My experience was specific to my situation and one or two individuals that liked to do things their own way just because they thought they knew what was best at all times. It was also my fault because I was trying to direct things from 750 miles away most of the time so I couldn't be there to fix things.

Were you in highly republican districts?

by adamterando 2007-01-05 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Lois, we had people staying when the voting was over. We don't do a lot very well, but our third-shift inside poll watcher stayed until the results were posted.

(Sigh. We have a long way to go. Half of our committeepeople don't even do e-mail. But we're improving. At least we have some GOTV now.)

by joyful alternative 2007-01-06 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I've done field organization and campaign management since the 1960's within the DFL in Minnesota.  Paul Wellstone's victory in 1990 was entirely based on it.  In fact I first met Keith Ellison during that campaign when he stepped in to do an important piece for Wellstone.  Let me put some content to this conversation.  

First of all -- you have to create a social organization that is on-going.  People who are going to manage their own precinct or a legislative district need to know each other over time.  What really works is regular low key social events -- for instance, the pot-luck dinner once a month or so.  People who are willing to make a pan of Lasangna, or two pies for twenty are people who are "buying in" to an effort.  You do this across organizations -- that is you invite in the activists from Labor, local education issue areas, the party people, the environmental crowd, and yes, the Move-on and other such groups.  If you are smart -- you bring in people who know the new technologies and methods -- but it is much more about creating a social entity that can turn on come election time. Such a group can sponsor training for volunteers, it can organize a canvas -- but together with other such groups, it can also authoritatively request that current office holders come and speak, and above all, answer questions.  

We saw the evolution of this during the recent Ellison campaign -- The Wellstone linked liberal Jewish Community doing social events and political forums with the Somali immigrant community.

I has to become a tradition --  

by Sara 2007-01-05 10:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Sara--As much as the suggestion is valued, it just doesn't work like that everywhere.  There's plenty of conntinuity in South Florida, and consequently, there's territorialism and infighting.  the local Dem party structures are often simply in the way of running effective campaigns here.  they waste money, do things like have barbecues a week out from E-day, etc.  i applaud whoever can get that sort of thing to work, but it's something that has existed and has been tried here in florida.  you're still operating on volunteer manpower, and no amount of 'organic' organizing will transform that into results.  it's become tradition here...tradition to suck and be frustrating for everyone involved.

i hate to break it to the folks in minnesota.  i mean, i loved wellstone.  i went to camp wellstone.  but minnesota is not a normal political environment.  not even close.  hell, you have a whole lake in minneapolis with nothing but pro-wrestlers living around it, and then you elected one of them governor.  that ain't normal...and given how sui generis paul wellstone was, his success is not necessarily easily replicable by the same methods.

by beyondo98 2007-01-05 12:30PM | 0 recs
splitting hairs

You're not a statistician. This article is just a bunch of, well, self-indulgence.  

by delmoi 2007-01-05 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

Losing lots of the close elections says NOTHING about infrastructure or GOTV.  It is just as likey that the close margins reflect SUCCESSFUL infrastructure and GOTV in races that would not have been so close otherwise.  Disproportionate outcomes of close races is a matter of chance.  It does indicate that we were pretty close to a much larger margin and it can motivate us to work even harder in future elections, especially in those districts, but it should in no way be seen as a failure.

by Thaddeus 2007-01-05 02:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Did Any Democratic Committees Work?

I worked in field the last two cycles and anyone bashing middle-aged or god forbid older ladies has never, ever, ever worked a real Democratic campaign.  Unless you live in a small town with a politically-oriented private college, middle-aged and older ladies WILL make up the bulk of your volunteers.  They aren't stupid either - you just might have to spend an extra five minutes training them on some of the computer stuff.

They are also the most fun people on the campaign for sure.  =)  Learn to love old ladies!

by ItsDrewMiller 2007-01-08 05:41AM | 0 recs

Diaries

Advertise Blogads