12 July 2012

The Ground Game Counts #nlpoli

Two posts, quite a distance apart touch on the same basic political (science) issue:  the role of the local, get-out-the-vote effort in any political campaign.

In a post at the Monkey Cage on what to watch for over the next few months in the American presidential campaign, John Sides reminds us that:

we know from social science that get-out-the-vote drives can really work.  So if the election comes down to mobilizing supporters, the comments of Cory Booker on the Sunday morning shows will be far less important than whether Obama and Romney can use the accumulated data they have about voters to identify promising targets and then contact them in the most effective way.

Memorial University political science graduate student John Samms also wrote about the importance of local campaigns as a counterweight to speculation last week from the Environics poll results.

Samms makes some valid points, including the note that local candidates can make a difference based on their personal characteristics and qualities.  There are plenty examples of this in provincial politics.  The 2011 election had plenty.

The Liberals, for example, won their seats based entirely on the strengths of the campaign and candidates in the districts where they won.  In St. John’s West, the strength of local candidate George Joyce’s personal campaign gave him a solid showing.  Had he been weaker, the NDP would likely have won that seat instead of the Tories.

The NDP performance in metro St. John’s came as a result of both strong local campaigns and local candidates with credibility and/or appeal.  Ditto their near win against cabinet minister Clyde Jackman.

Local campaigns do matter, but they are not the only thing.  What will continue to hinder the Liberals, for example, is that they have nothing to offer candidates. If someone doesn’t have local presence, cash and a personal team, they would be just as well advised to save their money and stay home. 

Both the NDP and the Conservatives have funds and teams of capable campaigners who can offer support and advice.  During a provincial campaign, both those parties showed in 2011 that they can run disciplined, professional campaigns. That’s what helped the NDP local campaigns.

The Liberals haven’t run anything approximating a professional, disciplined campaign since at least 2003.  They will have a hard time pulling that from out of thin air, at the last minute and yet that is exactly what they seem to expect will happen.