Monday, October 18, 2010

Inside Political Campaigns - Who Wins in Elections Too Close To Call?


No one can claim to have all the answers when it comes to campaign strategy but experience in local, state and federal elections can give one a perspective that helps them see the light, sometimes. Over the years I have been involved in many capacities in campaigns for Republicans, Democrats and Independents in partisan and non-partisan races.

From local city council to county commissioner, small to big city mayors races, governors, congressmen, senators and presidents and when it comes to a race too close to call, there are two elements that will often tip the race to one candidate or the other. First the absentee ballot effort can provide the winning margin and it takes place before the first vote election day. Second is the strength of the get out the vote effort by the campaign.

Many of the unsung heroes of political campaigns are the volunteers who man the phones and do the leg work for campaigns. These are the people who diligently and patiently must take the often shabby records of the voting history from the election office and build lists that often can win or lose elections.

You see, as the lists of primary and general election voters, turnout during presidential and off-year elections and degree of enthusiasm of the voters are checked, cross checked, and analyzed during the campaign, they become the basis for planning the absentee and get out the vote strategies in the final days of the campaign.

A good campaign will never rely solely on media to win. If it is close, the ground campaign, those efforts that bring the campaign in direct contact with voters, can often provide the winning margin. The thousands of hours of voter research and analysis form the basis for the strategy to be implemented.

Most absentee voter ballots are distributed 2-4 weeks before the election. They have to be requested by the voter in most states. When a list of potentially favorable voters is identified the campaign must find out if they need to vote absentee because if they are disabled or out of town election day that vote might be lost. So the campaign must identify who needs absentee ballots, get them to the voter, and get them sent back in to be counted. In some races there are thousands of absentee votes cast and it can be the difference in the election.

On election day weather can be a huge factor in voting. Highly motivated voters will turn out rain or shine and that gives the Republican and Tea party candidates a big advantage. Right now all polls show the Democrats are not enthusiastic. The campaigns and political parties must make sure their supporters get to the polls to vote rain or shine and that takes a major organizational effort to achieve. If you do not do the massive research in advance it cannot be successful.

Watch the campaigns in the too close to call elections. If they had the foresight to use the time tested techniques of mounting major absentee and get out the vote campaigns, they should win the tightly contested races. It takes planning, knowledge of campaigns and money to support the effort but it is often the best money spent during the campaign.


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