As of Sunday, Democrats lead in early voting as reported in North Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia. Only in Colorado do Republicans lead, and there the Republican margin over Democrats is 106,000 of the 1.1 million votes that have been cast so far.
In Colorado, at least, these numbers suggest that Republican challenger Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO), who leads incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall (R-CO) in the polls by just a few points, may have cause for celebration on election night
The most likely reason for the Republican early voting advantage in Colorado is that the new state law that makes it much easier to vote by mail this election cycle in Colorado, passed by a Democratic controlled legislature two years ago in hopes that it would give them a competitive advantage, has apparently backfired.
The Colorado Republican Party made a key strategic decision to invest heavily in a huge direct mailing sent out two months before election day. That decision helped turn the new system in which every voter receives a ballot in the mail rather than at their polling location from a disadvantage into an advantage for Republicans. (Ballots received in the mail can be cast either by return mail or at a designated polling location.)
According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Colorado Republican Committee paid direct mail vendor Majority Strategies more than $500,000 in the month of September to send out direct mailers to Republicans of all propensities to vote. At 40 cents per direct mail piece, those numbers mean that at least 1.25 million direct mailers went out.
In a state where the total vote is expected to be about 2 million on election day, that commitment of resources is significant, and it appears to have had the designated effect–getting Colorado Republican voters to fill out and submit their ballots by mail as soon as possible.
In contrast, a review of Federal Election Commission records show that neither the North Carolina Republican Party nor the Georgia Republican Party spent any money in 2013 and 2014 on direct mailers prior to October 15, the most recent date for which complete reports are available. In Iowa, the Republican Party of Iowa spent only $50,000 on direct mail in 2013 and 2014. Of that amount, not a dime was spent after August 1 of this year.
Mike Shields, Republican National Committee chief of staff, offered a different explanation for the Republicans early voting advantage in Colorado in an emailed statement to the press on Sunday.
“Since last year, [our] V365 [Victory 365 program] has been working to identify low propensity Republican voters,” Shields said. “These are voters that our data analytics say agree with us on the issues, but they might not vote without extra encouragement and contact. In all Senate target states, hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers have so far identified a total of 2,450,747 low propensity voters to engage early and often.”
That 2.4 million number is spread over ten targeted swing states, so, for each state, it represents about 240,000 voters on average.
Shields carefully notes that these voters have just been “identified” as opposed to having personal one-on-one conversations with a campaign worker. Those one-one-conversations, which most political scientists describe as the most effective way to make a persuasive political argument to a voter, are typical of the sort of face-to-face interaction that 20 per cent of voters targeted in a door-to-door canvassing operation experience.
Under the Republican Party’s new Victory 365 program, those low propensity voters could be “identified” by simply matching one data base with another, with the voter never having a personal interaction with a campaign worker.
Despite that potential shortcoming in voter interaction, Shields remains optimistic about the benefits of the GOP’s Victory 365 program.
“Our revamped digital operation is not only raising money online, but targeting low propensity voters online with social pressure GOTV messaging to complement what is happening in the field,” Shields concluded.
While Shields’ statement may be correct, it does not explain why Republicans hold an early voting advantage only in Colorado.
In fact, by most accounts, Democrats and their allied liberal Super PACs maintain a ground game advantage over the Republican Party’s Victory 365 program in all eight of the swing states that Real Clear Politics still rates as “toss-ups.”
One key strategic error made by the Republican National Committee in implementing its Victory 365 ground game is that it relies primarily on volunteers, rather than paid canvassers, to conduct door-to-door canvassing activities. In contrast, most operations that have had proven electoral success with ground game operations pay their door-to-door canvassers, either a modest salary or an hourly rate that can vary from $10 to $12 or more.
Such payments are necessary because it is hard work to spend four to eight hours a day knocking on doors, spending at least 5 minutes and sometimes as much as 15 or 20 minutes soliciting information and delivering a message face-to-face with, on average, a voter at 1 of every 5 doors you knock on, then recording that information in real time on a mobile electronic device that immediately posts the survey results to a data base that the campaign can use.
As a consequence of this decision to rely on volunteers rather than paid canvassers, in several states the Republican Party’s Victory 365 program has run into a shortage of canvassers. Those volunteer canvassers who do show up are often used to simply conduct literature drops rather than engage in those crucial person-to-person conversations at the door step of the voter than can be persuasive in turning out the vote for the Republican candidate.
Breitbart News has invited officials at the Republican National Committee to respond to this critique, but to date, has received no response. Indeed, no political operatives at either the Republican National Committee, any of the State Republican Parties in the key swing states, or at the U.S. Senate campaigns of Republican candidates in the key swing states have been willing to explain, in detail, the true metrics of their ground game operations with Breitbart News.
Consequently, in all key swing states, Democratic claims that they enjoy a significant ground game advantage over the Republicans appear to be supported by available evidence, as well as a track record of Democratic success in 2012 in this realm of political combat.
In Colorado in particular, the funding provided through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s $60 million Bannock Street Project has been supplemented by significant financial and manpower resources provided by liberal billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action Committee anti-global warming Super PAC and its related allies.
If Udall loses on Tuesday, it may be because the Democratic machine got what it wished for in Colorado with the new and improved easier voting by mail system. What the Democrats weren’t counting on is that the Colorado Republican Party would deploy a massive early direct mail counter-attack that would turn a Democratic advantage into a Democratic liability.
Image source: KRDO