Women Speak Out, the Super PAC arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, has raised $2.5 million this election cycle to run an aggressive ground game in support of pro-life Senate candidates in four key swing states: North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kansas.
By all accounts, it has been a highly cost-effective effort so far.
In an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of both the Susan B. Anthony List PAC and the Women Speak Out Super PAC, told Breitbart News: “we’ve been in North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana since April. We’ve been in Kansas just in the past several weeks.”
According to Dannenfelser, the Women Speak Out Super PAC has focused on a ground game in those four states “because there is no substitute for human beings talking to human beings. Every bit of air war cannot compensate for one person talking to another. There’s no question that when we looked at the states we knew were going to be close, knowing the ground game is the most effective persuasion tool, those states would benefit from our doing it.”
“We didn’t do it because it was easy. We didn’t do it because it was fun. We did it because it turns out the vote,” Dannenfelser added. “Just think of your own reaction to a robocall versus one person talking to you. That person-to-person contact is going to be far more convincing.”
“Somehow,” Dannenfelser concluded, “the technology of politics so captures people’s imaginations; what has been lost has been the humanity of politics.”
Women Speak Out has focused on the humanity of politics this election cycle in all four of these key swing states.
In Arkansas, for instance, 199 paid door-to-door canvassers have already knocked on 115,275 doors in support of pro-life U.S. Senate candidate Representative Tom Cotton (R-AR), a full 11 per cent of the 880,000 votes cast in the state’s 2010 mid-term U.S. Senate election. In addition to the paid canvassers, volunteers have made over 52,000 phone calls to voters, according to a spokesperson for Women Speak Out.
It’s a similar story in North Carolina, where Women Speak Out state coordinator Tami Fitzgerald was hired in March and five regional field coordinators were hired in April. 200 paid canvassers have knocked on 138,000 doors in the Tar Heel state in support of pro-life candidate Thom Tillis and in opposition to “100 per cent pro-abortion” incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) since May, more than 5 percent of the 2.6 million votes cast in that state’s 2010 mid-term U.S. Senate election. In addition, volunteers have phoned 246,315 voters.
The 122,000 doors knocked on in Louisiana, where the group has opposed incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) since April and in October endorsed pro-life Republican challenger Representative Bill Cassidy (R-LA), represent 10 per cent of the 1.2 million votes cast in the 2010 general.
The impact is not as great in Kansas, where the Women Speak Out ground game started later. The 9,000-plus doors knocked on in Kansas, where the group supports pro-life incumbent Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), are only 1 per cent of the 830,000 votes cast in the 2010 general.
Fitzgerald, who lives in Raleigh, told Breitbart News on Wednesday, “I think really it’s the first time in history a pro-life group has run a ground game of this scale.”
“We have been active on the ground in North Carolina since April. What typically happens is two months before the November election conservative groups start their ground games. By then it’s too late,” Fitzgerald added.
As Fitzgerald tells it, Women Speak Out is ahead of the curve this election cycle.
“We hired five field directors in April and put them in field offices in Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Wilmington, and Burnsville, which is about an hour from Asheville in the western part of the state,” she stated.
“We have 200 paid canvassers. About half of them are millennials (age 18 to 34). We have people working who are 70,” Fitzgerald said. “We pay all our canvassers $10 to $15 per hour plus mileage. They’re all employees, and the maximum anyone can work is 40 hours per week.”
Though door-to-door canvassers are paid “because it is very hard work,” Fitzgerald noted “we do phone banking on a volunteer basis.”
“We are using an app [mobile software application] called I-360 mobile for our door-to-door canvassing,” Fitzgerald added. “It works with Ipads, Iphones, and Android smartphones.”
In her exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Fitzgerald displayed a comprehensive understanding of the metrics involved in the nuts and bolts mechanics of the Women Speak Out ground game in North Carolina.
“So far, our average paid canvasser has knocked on 750 doors. That works out to about 10 to 12 door knocks per hour. A typical day will be anywhere from 1 to 8 hours,” she said. “The average is not as high in the western part of the state, which is more rural and is in the mountains where GPS does not work as well.”
“Our people are not just performing a job,” Fitzgerald emphasized. “They’re out there knocking on doors every day because they’re passionate about saving the lives of unborn children.” That passion, she said, “is going have a big impact on getting pro life voters to the polls.”
“Our canvassers have encountered people at the door frequently who, at the beginning, say it doesn’t make a difference who they vote for,” Fitzgerald said. “By the end of survey many of the voters were enthusiastic to vote for our candidate.”
Fitzgerald described the questions the paid canvassers ask voters on their door steps:
“First we ask them if they intend to vote. Our canvassers don’t end the discussion when the voter says they’re not going to vote. Those are the people… we want to persuade. We are taking ‘not-likely-to-vote’ leaners and turning them into likely voters.”
“Second, we ask if they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice.”
The third question is the head-to-head “if they election were held today,” would they vote for Tillis or Hagan.
The real work of the survey begins with the fourth question. “We then ask,” Fitzgerald told Breitbart News, “if you knew Kay Hagan supported taxpayer funding of abortions, would you be more or less likely to vote for her?”
That question sets the stage for the final question, in which the canvasser asks the voter if they would be willing to commit to vote for Thom Tillis on November 4.
Fitzgerald notes that response rates–the number of door knocks that result in completed surveys–vary depending on the day of the week.
“The overall percentage rate of completed surveys on a normal weekday is right around 15%. But on Saturday or Sunday that number can be as high as 45%,” Fitzgerald told Breitbart News.
“Data from those surveys at the door goes into the data base in real time,” she added, noting that the leadership team at Women Speak Out reviews the data each day. As a result, she notes, our processes “are constantly being improved.”
“We are targeting pro-life, pro-marriage people from all parties,” Fitzgerald stated. “We have Democrats and Independents on the list, as well as Republicans. We are targeting voters who have voted 2 or 3 times in the past 4 years.”
“Our canvassers,” Fitzgerald said,” have a door hanger they leave with a kind of a recapitulation of the record of Kay Hagan on abortion.” The door hanger tells voters “Hagan announced her opposition to late term abortion bans. She supports on demand abortion until day of delivery,” according to Fitzgerald.
“We have an easy target in North Carolina because Kay Hagan is 100% pro-abortion. She has a 100% voting record with Obama and Planned Parenthood. She supports late term abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion through the Affordable Care Act.”
“In contrast we have an incredible pro-life candidate on the other side in Thom Tillis.”
Fitzgerald said the Democrats in North Carolina have also been mounting a very aggressive ground game.
“We have seen the Hagan people, and the Planned Parenthood people knocking on doors,” she told Breitbart News.
“The Hagan people are running the ground game through the Wake County Democratic Party.” North Carolina political operatives say that the State Democratic Party is in disarray, which is why Wake County is the chosen intermediary.
“It is aggressive,” Fitzgerald said of the Democratic ground game in North Carolina. “Sometimes it seems they are almost knocking on every door. It does seem they have targeted specific legislative districts.”
“I think the Hagan team numbers of doors knocked on are bound to be pretty high state-wide,” Fitzgerald added,”Planned Parenthood is active, but is knocking on doors in only three counties of the state–Wake (Raleigh), Mecklenburg (Charlotte), and Buncombe (Asheville).
According to Fitzgerald, the Republicans in North Carolina, while visible, have a less robust presence than the Democrats.
Though RNC Chairman Reince Preibus recently praised a North Carolina Victory 365 canvasser who claims to have knocked on 10,000 doors, all evidence points to a GOP ground game effort in the state that is focused primarily on literature drops rather than full-scale canvassing with significant use of door-to-door surveys.
“I know they have field offices and victory offices but we don’t know if they’re canvassing,” Fitzgerald concluded about the GOP effort.
While Fitzgerald noted that the GOP canvassers are “sort of passionate about meeting important people,” Women Speak Out canvassers are passionate about saving the lives of the unborn.
Despite Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) recent claim that the superiority of the Democratic ground game will add 2 to 3 points in each of the ten key swing Senate state races next week, the hard-working canvassers at Women Speak Out believe their efforts will counteract any supposed Democratic advantage in four of those key states–North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kansas–whether Republican ground game claims pan out or not.