Project Wonderful

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: Coordination Frustration

I am an FO on a coordinated campaign, and it is my first show. I am finding that local campaigns seem to hate us! Also, each of the candidates seems to have their own low-key field team outside the coordinated, and they keep reaching out and confusing my volunteers! Is this common? I have one vol who probably won't come out again because he thinks the coordinated is just not a thing. I don't know what to tell him!

Ah the eternal struggle of the coordinated! This is a great question and one I have addressed more or less in the past, but it comes up every year and it’s something I wish I (and almost everyone I’ve ever worked with) had better understood.

When it comes to coordinating (as in most campaign inter-personnel matters) empathy is the name of the game. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess both from the tone of your question and the necessity of your situation that you believe your campaign is the most important, if not in the country then certainly in your office. Good! As well you should! Organizing is a job where sometimes in order to get through the day it helps to believe with certainty that your work has dire consequences for the state and the nation. Well guess what? So does everybody else there.

Let’s talk a little bit about how a coordinated campaign works. Various candidate campaigns “buy in” to the coordinated through the state party to be part of the coordinated effort. The amount they pay is usually dictated by their budget, which generally varies by the size of the race. Thus a gubernatorial candidate who is running statewide is sure to contribute a greater amount toward the coordinated budget than a state senate candidate who is running only her in own district.

Naturally, campaigns that contribute more to the coordinated effort have a greater influence over its direction and content. This means that while a coordinated campaign might ID for all of its candidates, canvassing and phone scripts only include persuasion for the one or two candidates “at the top of the ticket.” Likewise, while canvassers and callers might be trained to ID for all candidates, the reality is that the number of IDs collected for each candidate dwindles as you move down the script by which time voters get annoyed and callers get lazy. This, by the way, is why coordinated campaigns are at their best during GOTV when you’re just turning out rather than ID’ing and persuading voters.

As you can imagine, state legislative campaigns want an opportunity to persuade and voters as well. In addition, while targeting for most Democratic campaigns is similar, it is far from identical. Race, religion, gender, record and opponent might all play into a local campaign wanting to target a slightly different group of voters from the coordinated, which is driven by the state party and top of the ticket candidates. Let’s say you live in a conservative part of a swing state and the top ticket candidate has a moderate Republican opponent for an open seat. In a statewide race, your vote goal might only call for you to win 35% of your county. However in a race where your county encompasses 80% of the district, 35% isn’t gonna cut it. Now let’s say a conservative Democrat is running for State Senate in that area and her opponent made insensitive comments about sexual violence, and was caught using cocaine and having a sexual relationship with one of his interns. She might try appealing to moderate Republicans, or Republican women, people who you probably don’t want to remind that there’s an election at all.

My point is yes, there is truth to the axiom that a rising tide floats all ships, but not in all cases. Everyone here has a job to do and no one wants to give up control, for reasons that vary from valid to ego-driven. Remember, they’re no more “your” volunteers than theirs.

So, what to do? I wrote a post about coordinating campaigns at a slightly higher level than you’re talking about last year, but I think a lot of the same advice still applies.

First off, I highly recommend coming up with a calling/canvassing schedule. If your field director hasn’t already mandated this make up a calendar of where your volunteers will be knocking/calling when and work it out so this doesn’t coincide with other campaigns. Not only will you avoid turf wars, but you’ll get a better response rate and be more efficient as you benefit from each other’s data collection.

When it comes to volunteers, you’re dealing with a limited pool of resources so occasional conflict is inevitable. With a volunteer in the situation you described I would propose one of the following solutions. Either 1) If this is a regular volunteer set up a weekly schedule with her and the other campaign where she volunteers for you on Monday and them on Weds (or whatever.) 2.) Agree with this other campaign’s organizer/field director to have this specific volunteer call your list when she comes in but make sure she uses a script that to includes (or even begins with) their candidate’s persuasion message. This type of stuff happened on the ground from time to time when I was an FO/Regional . As long as it’s only one or two volunteers (and of course you can’t do this with all of them) for the sake of peace in your office, what your field director doesn’t know won’t hurt her. (Sorry Coordinated Director/Statewide Field Director friends…Sorry! Sorry! I love you!)

Another important rule of thumb for keeping a peaceful coordinated office is when you say you’re going to do something, do it.
If you promise not to call a certain volunteer list on Wednesdays and you are then compelled by your field director to call that list, be upfront about it and work out a solution with your office mate. She will trust and like you a lot more if you keep her in the loop rather than go behind her back and create more tension.

Finally, we’re back to empathy. Acknowledge that you are all in a stressful situation with finite resources and nerves are gonna get frayed, but at the end of the day you have way more in common with each other than you do with most people. The more you can foster a “we’re in this together” mentality in your office the better off you’ll be.

I hope that helps! Thank you for all the amazing work you’re doing out there and thanks for reading.

Campaign Love and Mine,


Friday, September 5, 2014

Kansas Secretary of State Refuses to Remove Democrat From Ballot

Remember yesterday when I wrote that Democratic candidate Chad Taylor's withdrawal from the Kansas Senate race could lead to a possible upset in Pat Roberts' bid for re-election? Apparently Republicans were thinking the same thing.

Not only the did the national party dispatch top Republican strategist Chris LaCivita to take control of the campaign but Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is trying to block Taylor from removing his name from the ballot. Taylor says he did everything he was supposed to do to legally withdraw his name, Kobach says he didn't. Sounds to me like yet another example of Republicans trying to change the rules to the game when they stop winning.

Six Senate Forecasts Combined, Plus Meet My Friend Pete!

If you're like me, when you hear the phrase "Senate forecast" your first reaction is "cloudy with a chance of boring." It's not that I don't care what's going on in elections across our country (hi, have we met?) or that I don't appreciate a good data nerd out. It's just that there's so much information out there, so many numbers flying around, that it's hard to parse it all out- especially when it's your job to figure out how we're going to win rather than what the actual likelihood of doing so is.

Luckily there are some people not like me, including my good friend Pete Solecki (to be clear Pete also cares about how we're going to win but that's another blog post.) Pete, in addition to being my bro back from the whoa back, is a data and digital strategist of the Democratic persuasion. He has helpfully compared, contrasted and finally combined six leading forecasts for the 2014 Senate elections. (That's what you're looking at above.) He maps it all out for you on his new website here. He's very smart that Pete Solecki. Look forward to more links to Pete's page from CampaignSick or why not follow him all on your own?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Planned Parenthood Shuts Down Ridiculous GOP Pro-Women/Labor Claim

Are you f-ing kidding me? Republicans claiming labor day is like them taking credit for a gay marriage. And for WOMEN no less? Prominent Republicans won't even acknowledge that a wage gap exists. It would be like Britain tweeting "You're welcome, also we have great food" on Independence Day. Picture above and supporting HuffPo article here. (About Republicans' record on pay, not the British thing.)

Proving once again that saying something doesn't make it true.

Two Percent of Americans Report Having Run For Office

Office seekers are overwhelmingly male (75%) and white (82%). Imagine my surprise. You can read the Pew Report here.

Kansas Could Have An Independent Senator. So That's Exciting.

If you're a Republican Senator, you'd think your Democratic opponent dropping out before the general election would be a good thing. Not so for Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts who just survived a tea party primary challenge. Democrat Chad Taylor's surprising announcement that he was withdrawing from the Kansas' US Senate race paves the way for a potential galvanization of anti-Roberts sentiment behind Independent Greg Orman.

Fox News (I know.):
"A recent poll from Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling showed Orman had a 43 percent to 33 percent lead over Roberts if the race was just between the two of them.

On the other hand, if all three candidates were in the race, 32 percent of voters picked Roberts, 25 percent picked Taylor and 23 percent picked Orman, according to a Public Policy Polling poll.

Orman had positioned himself as Roberts' most formidable opponent, and his fundraising was more robust than Taylor's...

Orman, the co-founder of a business capital and management services firm, ran for Roberts' seat in 2007 as a Democrat but dropped out early in 2008. He said he grew unhappy with both parties.

On Wednesday, Orman received the endorsement of Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, a group of former moderate GOP state legislators unhappy with the party's conservative leanings."

Huh. This just became a race to watch.

NAACP v. Husted

Despite what the picture on his website might have you believe, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted REEEEAAALLLLY doesn't want more people voting. Like really, really. You may remember some of his greatest hits like getting sued by OFA and getting hauled in front of a judge for deliberately disobeying the court's order to restore early voting. The ACLU brief sums it up nicely.
"In Ohio, targeting early voting has become a pattern. In 2011, the Ohio General Assembly passed a law eliminating both Golden Week and the last three days of early voting before Election Day. Voters responded by organizing a ballot referendum to strike down the law, prompting legislators to repeal it on their own.

In 2012, Husted continued the pattern by issuing a directive that cut the same three days of early voting for all non-military voters. The Obama campaign responded with a federal lawsuit and the court forced Husted to restore the early voting days, allowing an additional 67,000 voters to cast an in-person ballot before the election."
May of this year rolled around and Husted and his bros in the legislature were like, "You know what we should do? Cut early voting. That's gone awesomely and been totally legal before." Enter NAACP v. Husted.
"The lawsuit names Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine as defendants. It seeks to strike down Ohio Senate Bill 238, a 2014 law that eliminated the first week of early voting in Ohio. This period, often referred to as "Golden Week," enables voters to register and cast a ballot on the same day. The suit is also challenging a 2014 Husted directive that further slashed the early voting period by eliminating all Sundays, the Monday before Election Day and all evening voting hours."
Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, a Federal court granted injunctive relief this morning ruling that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act(the part prohibiting laws that have a racially discriminatory effect) which means Golden Week (weird name) will be restored for the midterms. Can Ohio please stop now?