For perspective on the difference between Democratic and Republican midterm strategy, you really have to read Derek Willis’s NYT Upshot post “Democrats Are Spending More on the Ground in Key Senate Races.” The centerpiece in his post, quite a jaw-dropper really, is a chart, “A Democratic Edge in Key Senate Races,” which graphically depicts how much of the midterm outcome is riding on Dem’s GOTV spending.
In Alaska, for example, Dems are spending $1.9 million for “local staffers; get-out-the-vote efforts and other field operations.” to re-elect Mark Begich, vs. less than $225K for the Repubican candidate. In Colorado the difference is even greater, with Dems spending $4.4 million on staff and voter contact operations, compared the the Republicans’ spending a paltry $556K for their candidate. In North Carolina Democrats are spending $3.2 million on ground game efforts to re-elect Sen. Kay Hagan, compared to less than $836K for her GOP opponent. In Iowa it’s $1.3 mill for Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley against $105K for his adversary.
Willis adds that outside groups, such as super PACs, environmental and reproductive rights groups “working on behalf of Democratic candidates have extended the advantage.” Republicans, lacking the ground troops, have for the most part opted for investments in more traditional methods, such as media and postal ads.
Much depends on how good Democratic high-tech voter targeting efforts like the Bannock Street Project really are, vs. the GOP’s ad saturation strategy. But Dems are not withdrawing from the ad wars in any sense, explains Willis:
In Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, the number of network television spots is split roughly evenly between the two sides, according to data compiled by Echelon Insights, a Republican digital consulting firm…Spending on field operations is still a fraction of the amount that goes to television and other forms of advertising, and campaigns are reluctant to take money away from trying to reach mass audiences, even if it’s unclear in many cases how many persuadable voters broadcast advertisements reach.
Democrats clearly recognize that they have to remain competitive in fronting strong television ads, matching the Republican investment. But they also believe they can target swing voters better than can the Republicans, and they can put more trained canvassers on their front porches– and with a better message.
It’s a big gamble. But credit Democrats with the realization that getting different midterm results requires a different GOTV strategy. So far, dozens of better-than-expected snapshot polls suggest they may be right.