August 01, 2016

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, love is not going to trump hate in 2016.

Love is a pretty strong word. Also a bit unusual for politics. The Democratic nominee is not going to win because people will fall in love with her, her party, or her policies.

I hope that love is a feeling that most of us reserve for the non political. I attach the word to relatively few things: my family, an ice cold gin and tonic on a warm Cape Cod evening, Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. The list doesn’t get much longer than that.

The Democrats know they have a historically weak nominee in terms of her public approval.  The hagiography at their convention isn’t likely to make a big dent in the public’s perception of Hillary Clinton.

Love won’t trump hate in 2016 because there simply won't be enough of it.

But organizing will trump Trump. And it is here that the Democrats have an overwhelming edge.

Psychologists and political scientists have found that people may be motivated to vote by altruism. They may also be influenced by social norms and habit.

Joshua Harder and Jon Krosnick’s research points to multiple, complex factors that influences a person’s decision to vote or not to vote. But the single greatest factor in getting a person to vote is an old fashioned one: canvassing.

They write:

“Canvassing may enhance turnout because it helps citizens determine where to go to vote, reminds them about the election date to permit advance planning, enables citizens by giving them information about the candidates and issues, or induces citizens to make oral commitments to participating in the election, which can be self fulfilling.”

Liz McKenna puts it even more succinctly: “How do you increase voter turnout in the most positive and effective way? The answer is door-to-door canvassing.”

Now a high profile race like this fall’s presidential election doesn’t absolutely hinge on turnout. Habitual voters count for a good deal every four years. But the combination of data collection and analysis, micro targeting, and focused canvassing can yield enough results in key states in order to move an election.

Recall that George W. Bush wasn’t reelected because he put together a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters. His team found more voters that identified with the GOP and motivated them to vote, specifically in the state of Ohio.

Team Obama wrote the book on applying modern analytics to its canvassing and get out the vote operations. Well, actually Sasha Issenberg wrote the book, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.

Consider this passage describing David Plouffe’s 2008 “bible,” voting goals for each state that Michael Simon had put together. Ask yourself which of the two current campaigns is following a strategy even remotely close to this:

“Simon thought there should be a smarter way to make the calculations that would fill the bible. His team had access to new data, from the IDs and microtargeting scores it had generated during the most engaged primary season in modern history. When he assigned his regional analysts to create vote goals for their state, however, he encouraged them to inform their estimates with human intelligence, such as interviews with county party chairmen and local pollsters. Simultaneously, he hoped that his team could approach the task with more data-driven rigor than was typical, while delivering to his pack of statistically minded political debutants a bracing reminder of the limits of data-driven rigor. They needed to understand that some parts of the process, Simon thought, were still more ‘art than science.’”

The result for Team Obama is now the stuff of legend. The application of new methods to the work of canvassers and field operators changed campaigns.

Well, most campaigns. The Trump campaign hasn’t invested in a campaign apparatus. It hasn’t built a team at the local level and it certainly isn’t using modern analytics to inform its non existent organization.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s campaign has the look and feel of a team that understand how to reach voters and turn them out. They’re also investing in voter registration drives to find new voters to add to her column.

Love, an elusive ephemeral quality, isn’t going to defeat Donald Trump. Strong teams of well chosen canvassers armed with real data in real time can. Democrats know this and though those “Love Trumps Hate” signs were ubiquitous in Philadelphia, campaign strategists are busy informing her impressive team with data and direction to finding and turning out voters.

Democrats really have taken on Ronald Reagan’s messaging this year though instead of Trust, but Verify they’ve got, Love, but Organize. 

canvassing, Donald Trump. Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton

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