January 18, 2010

EPM in Campaign Politics

This should be a no-brainer, right? Politics is all about people. People vote. The candidate with the most votes wins, so the campaign that attracts the most people wins.

Unfortuantely, no one really knows why people vote the way they do.  It's impossible to do a true experiment, because no two campaigns are identical – even if two candidates run against each two years in a row, the external factors could be radically different.

Enter: The Field Team. Field organizers are those courageous souls who try to contact voters directly. While the consultants and media experts worry about the wording of a radio ad, the field soldiers knock on doors, make thousands of phone calls, recruit volunteers and put out yard signs, hoping that they can identify supporters, potential volunteers, donors or other leaders. I've been lucky to part of a few campaigns, always as part of the Field Team.

The most successful field organizers, volunteer coordinators, phone bank managers and precinct captains know it's true: Each Person Matters. The random volunteer you recruit could be your superstar leader on Election Day. The voter you connect with on the phone may have six voting-age children. The phone banker who you compliment and make feel special may be the one who brings his entire political science class to volunteer for a week.

Good organizers know their list of people. They make reminder phone calls. They leave nothing to chance. And they make you sign up for another work shift before you leave, everytime.

Does field work win elections? It's impossible to know. But it always makes a campaign stronger.