Ground game

Registered to vote in VA 10/5. Just got my second GOTV call from the Obama campaign.

I registered to vote in Virginia one month ago.

First phone call from the Obama campaign was last Thursday. Second call just now.

Both from live human beings, not robots.

“Do you plan to vote? Do you plan to vote for Obama? Do you know where to vote? Do you need a ride?”

I’m impressed. But I’m also a bit disappointed that no word was said about the very competitive Senate and House races. Sometimes I worry that Obama might be taking all that post-partisan bushw seriously.

Update Another live call at 5 pm, this time from Charlottesville. I didn’t hear the phone, so they left a message, mentioning all three candidates and giving me the polling station address.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

30 thoughts on “Ground game”

  1. A first-time voter at my age is presumably moving in from out of state. Does that person know that there’s both a close Senate race and a close House race? Could he have heard something nasty about either Kane or Douglass that the caller might be able to refute? (Kaine is the target of a vicious NRA attack.)

    I did phone calls for LBJ in 1964, and will never forget the talking-to I got when I deviated from the script and said “Do you plan to vote for President Johnson?” rather than “Do you plan to vote for President Johnson, Joe Tydings, and the rest of the Democratic ticket?”

    1. I think that Mark was right for 1964, but Charley has a point today. In the 1960’s, the parties were far less ideological than they were today, and ticket-splitters were more common. I’m only a bit younger than Mark, but also originate from Maryland. I remember voting for Republicans Gilbert Gude and Mac Mathias, while never thinking of voting for Nixon or Ford or Reagan. They were every bit as liberal as their Democratic opponents, and just better suited to goo-goo Montgomery County.
      But today? There’s much less ticket-splitting. If I were the Obama campaign, I’d still pimp the local talent–good politicians want to do favors for everybody. (This is an Obama weakness: like Mike Bloomberg and too many Democrats, he sometimes thinks he is Lee Kuan Yew.) But if his ground game can get an Obama voter into the booth, it has also gotten at least 90% of a downticket voter as well.

  2. I’ve noticed a similar trend between the R’s and the D’s. The R stands for Robocall — nothing but Robocalls trying to get me to support Republicans. For our US Senate seat, I’ve heard from Tom Smith, his wife (who wants to tell me about her best friend and husband), and his daughter (who want’s to tell me about her daddy). Same for Glen Thompson who has token competition in the very safe 5th District. In contrast I’ve had calls from real people supporting Obama, Casey, and Dumas as well as 2 in person visits from Democrats going door-to-door. Republicans must think they can buy anything.

    1. That’s the difference between a party of people and a party of money. The money party has to use robocalls because they don’t have the people to make the personal calls.

    1. Teaching intro to policy analysis for the first class of undergraduate public policy majors at UVa.’s Batten School. Back to LA when it gets cold.

  3. When I was pounding the pavement here in No. Va. four years ago, I ran into an old man who said “no way” would he support Obama. Something about him made me ask, “Are you a Navy man?” Yep, he replied, twenty-eight years. “OK, I’m not going to change your mind. Can I tell you about Mark Warner for Senate?” That, he was willing to listen to. Maybe he split the ticket.

  4. Hmm, Mark, I don’t know.

    Your assumption is that most people are just thrilled to be interrupted to be interrupted to a phone call from a stranger who wants to talk you about THEIR interests and concerns, and that the longer that chat goes the happier said people will be. I don’t want to speak for the bulk of humanity, but personally I am FURIOUS at any and every call by a stranger, for whatever reason, and I don’t care what they are promoting or whether they are human or robot. My thinking, always is that my time is MINE, to apportion as I wish, and that the correct way to reach me is via mail which I can read (or toss) on my schedule.

    Let’s compare with CA where I live. In CA I’ve received two calls during the election season, the first asking me to vote no on 32 (a union-busting measure) and the second to vote no on 32 and yes on 30 (a budget rationalization measure). This strikes me as a reasonable limit. Only two calls, and aiming at votes that are clearly large-scale important, and knife-edge. Your VA vote sounds like much the same very sensible allocation of the scarce resources of attention, politeness, and goodwill.

    (Or, to put it differently, suppose my attitude is the very common one of: I am not crazy about congressman X. Yes is a D not an R, but he seems to have very little interest in my concerns. I’ll vote for him, but holding my noise. Now congressman X calls me five times encouraging me to vote for him. Is this likely to
    – increase or
    – decrease
    my chances of voting for congressman X rather than abstaining [or voting for the Green candidate if there is one]?
    Yes, in the world of h. Economicus I will still vote for congressman X. In the REAL WORLD of REAL HUMAN BEINGS, maybe not so much.)

    1. Wow. Furious whenever the phone rings and you don’t know the person on the other end? As a kid I remember the phone ringing as one of the most interesting things that ever happened all day. A ringing phone still makes me curious, since random encounters always teach me something (e.g., when not to answer the phone), and I don’t understand someone who defaults to anger when encountering strangers. The calls you get during political seasons tells you a lot about the world you live in, and someone else pays to get you the information. And this pisses you off?

      You must be very lonely, person who remains anonymous.

      1. I think anonymous has what is increasingly a more common view than your own. I don’t know anyone under 30 who has a land line, myself included, and I’ve never met anyone who misses the telemarketing, whether that telemarketing is selling political candidates or some other product. On my cell phone, I am on the national do not call list and never pick up any calls from unfamiliar numbers unless I am expecting one. Again, I think this is pretty typical.

      2. We amuse ourselves at the MIL who still must answer with that there newfangled phone that shows the phone number of the party calling, even though she only has about 5 people that call. Hello…hello…HELLO?!? sigh!!!! The only reason we have the landlines is that the bundle is cheaper with than without. Personally, I don’t answer the land line, which as below I think is pretty typical.

  5. I’m surprised, as I live in Richmond and have gotten at least 2 calls a day from “Obama for America” for at least the last 2 weeks. (I can’t say if they are human or robocalls, as I’ve stopped answering the phone.)

  6. I’ve never seen a Presidential campaign distribute literature for the down-ballot in all my years of canvassing and phone-banking. I thought it had to do with campaign coordination and finance law, but also due to the differing goals and practical priorities to which each campaign was devoting resrouces.

    It’s easy to critique from the sidelines, but have you ever designed and coordinated a lit drop? My goodness, the moving parts, even on a basic door-hanger distribution effort.

    1. The Presidential campaign can’t produce literature for down-ballot races (though it can probably distribute literature in which the Presidential candidate endorses down-ballot outcomes), but the volunteers can be mustered, can be instructed, and can be handed literature for distribution by multiple organizations working in cooperation.

      I on’t know what effect modern distributed phone-banking systems or indeed older phone-banking systems have on this: in either case, some entity is paying for the infrastructure, and where money is involved there are restrictions.

  7. I’ve made calls using Goog talk and OFA’s online calling tool. The script is pretty simple: Have you voted already? If not, who are you supporting?

    That’s it. I only made calls to OH and WI. So maybe OFA needs to add a box or two targeting competitive Senate races, but that’s not up to me…I’ve got more calls to make.

  8. The people doing calls for Obama are not locals, so it’s a bit more difficult for them to talk about local or state elections. I just got back from Obama phonebanking. We were calling Ohio and Wisconsin from California. The people calling Virginia are probably from New York or Massachusetts or something.

    Phonebanking is not fun, but I did get one voter who wanted to vote for Obama, but didn’t know where her polling place was or when the polls were open. I hope I helped her get to the polls tomorrow.

    1. Awrshum, Fang! I canvassed yesterday and ended my shift driving an impassioned Obama voter whose car was out of commission to the early voting site.
      One by one, that’s how it’s done.

  9. FWIW, I was phonebanking in Virginia tonight, and the script definitely says to ask about the Senate race…

  10. This is a good time for me to offer tribute to everyone with the grit to do phonebanking or doorknocking. I just can’t hack it; I hope my blogging partly makes up for my delinquency in that regard.

    Robo-calls and dialing-for-dollars annoy me; when an actual fellow-citizen calls and politely encourages me to do my civic duty in a cause we both believe in, I don’t find that intrusive.

    1. I can understand your antipathy towards the nitty-gritty of retail politics. The last time I did phoning or door-to-door was in ’72 during the New Jersey primary, working for McGovern. I’m naturally a shy person, but I had my list of registered Dems in the precinct I was working with a friend of mine, and got through it with the help of a couple of hits of pot every night, which gave me the nerve to actually call someone I didn’t know (and no, I didn’t giggle uncontrollably during the calls – that happened afterwards with some of the responses we got). And at the end of the day it was mission accomplished, we identified our supporters, carried the precinct, carried the township, and carried the county (which was what mattered for the delegates). But that was in the day when people actually answered the phone.

      Flash forward to now, I have caller ID and use it. Here in Bloomfield Township (once the ancestral home of MI Reps, since supplanted by the further reaches of Oakland County as well as the western part of the state) I received lots of Rep robocalls (and some for right-wing judicial candidates who seem to be supported by an organization from Arlington but not by the actual Rep organization here), but none from the Dems until tonight there was a robocall pushing the Dem candidates for the state Supreme Court. I’m not aware of any actual people who called asking how I was going to vote, I suppose because they’re instructed to hang up if they get an answering machine.

      I honestly don’t know how one does phone canvassing or GOTV in an era of universal caller ID and almost universal mobile-phone usage. In my case it doesn’t matter, because I never miss an election (except for ’94, when I was living in Japan and was disenfranchised despite paying federal and MI income taxes).

  11. We’re calling locally from the phone bank at my house. In fact, we are calling (and also knocking on some doors) exclusively in our part of the city so we are totally prepared to talk about other candidates or issues. Callers at other phone banks are using the automated system to call swing state voters. Here, at least, if you want to make phone calls you have options.

  12. I went canvassing yesterday, for our junior senator (running for re-election) and AG (running for governor). No one mentioned the President, nor did I have any of his pamphlets. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen three of his signs in this very blue county (in a red state) all fall. Pretty different from 2008. Tomorrow voter protection, which should be boring.

    1. Team Obama was on offsense in 2008. This time it is playing defence – ring fencing the swing states and hoarding those votes. 2008 worked out very well. Looks like 2012 will as well. Stepping back from the 1st debate freakout, Team O has done itself proud.

  13. Welcome to Virginia. (And maybe to Albemarle Co? A relatively liberal island surrounded by a sea of red.)

  14. I canvassed in Virginia for OFA this weekend. The scripts we were given instructed us to inquire about support for both Obama and Kaine before asking voters if they knew where to vote, what ID to bring, if they needed a ride etc. The door-knocker material we left for people who weren’t home encourage people to vote for Kaine as well. So there is at least some degree of coordination between campaigns.

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