Wednesday, January 28, 2004

What happened in the field?

For readers out there, I thought I would share with you a quick overview of how the field organizations of these campaigns performed in just one neighborhood of one New Hampshire city. Starting over the summer, my household received promotional materials from most of the campaigns and did so up until the Monday night before the primary. Here is some of the analysis:

Door knocking: Despite being just up the road from a relatively affluent - and very walkable - neighborhood, our house was only visited by two campaigns: The Gephardt campaign visited once, with an old guy, and a college student from the south on a Sunday afternoon and the Edwards campaign visited once, delivering a copy of his "Real Solutions" book, on a Monday night before a local book signing promoting his "Four Trials" book.

Events: Over the summer, Dean had one neighborhood event - a meet-and-greet at a local farm - which was attended by about 75 people. However, no one in the neighborhood was notified about the event: No leaflets, no postcards, and no phone calls - a major promotional mistake. I happened to stumble upon it on a Sunday afternoon when I drove by it on my way to a softball game. Gephardt's son Matt had a coffee at a house about a mile from here, discussing health care, and area residents were notified via postcard. Nothing else happened in the neighborhood or if it did, we were not notified.

Mailers: The Kerry campaign sent numerous mailers. The mailers were glossy and issue-oriented, pressing his health care, environmental, and economic platform positions. Most of the mailers were sent during the summer and fall - when he was down in the polls. However, one negative mailer - which attacked Dean and Clark - was mailed a couple of weeks ago, with a newspaper endorsement mailer sent out during the final week. The Clark campaign sent two mailers - one was a personalized postcard from a woman in Arizona, a new phenomenon in campaign mailing strategies, where people from other states write postcards and letters to undecided voters. The other was a four-color platform piece. The Dean campaign sent one glossy mailer in October, a profile piece resembling a Newsweek cover. They did no other mail to our area for the rest of the campaign. Lastly, all the campaigns were using voting lists that were at least three years old, probably bought from a consulting service, and not obtained from local town and city clerk offices and purged by hand. In New Hampshire, the voting lists are a bit different than in other states. In Massachusetts, for example, a candidate can get a free complete CDR of the latest list of voters once a candidate is declared. Whereas here, state-wide lists are not provided to candidates electronically. A candidate either has to buy a list from a company - which may not be a recent list - or go to each individual town and get an electronic list for a payment, usually $25. A state-wide list is available to campaigns but only in paper form, copies of all the state's voter checklists, and the last I heard it was about $1,200. But then, the data from the paper list has to be entered into a computer to be used for mailers or checklists, a daunting task for even a well-organized campaign.

Literature drops: A few campaigns did drop off literature in the neighborhood. Both the Edwards and Gephardt campaigns dropped off literature twice. The Kerry campaign dropped off a CD-Rom with campaign information on it. The Lieberman campaign dropped off a single profile leaflet.

Signs: As the saying goes, signs don't vote, people vote. But signs do show a presence for a campaign. And the signs were plentiful in the neighborhood, especially starting after the holidays. Dean had the most signs up early, peppered around the neighborhood during the summer and fall. Kerry signs started to creep up slowly in late fall. Clark signs also appeared with a handful Edwards signs and one for Kucinich. One Lieberman sign was seen. Some residents swapped their signs, one moving from Kerry to Dean in the last month. Others had dual signs, representing two different views in a household.

What does this all mean?: In a state where retail politics is everything, a lot of the campaigns failed to do the work they needed to do in order to introduce themselves to voters, especially early on, when they had a lot of time. Too much of the New Hampshire focus seemed to be about getting voters to come out and see the candidates, compared to previous campaigns where the candidates went to the voters. Candidates seemed to have an office in every town, whereas in previous years, a campaign might have one or two offices. For Dean, who had numerous offices, this may have spread his organization too thin, with the right hand [Manchester] not knowing what the left hand [Concord], was doing. Too much concentration seemed to be put on having town hall forums and not enough on door-knocking. When a candidate door-knocks a neighborhood, he creates a buzz. Neighbors start talking about the fact that a presidential candidate actually came by and knocked on a door. Bill Bradley was able to do this effectively in 2000, actually reaching out to people on the beach during the summer and visiting people's homes at other times. Sure, a couple of the campaigns started to do this on Monday, when there was nothing left to do. But, the human touch - instead of the rock concert touch - can make a big difference.
Gephardt dropped out after Iowa so what energy his campaign offered here proved irrelevant as the primary approached.
The Clark campaign started too late although finished in a surprising third place. He was completely lost during most of the debates and seemed clueless on most issues.
Lieberman should have done much better here because he is so conservative. While the base of New Hampshire primary voters tends to be more liberal - hence the effectiveness of having Ted Kennedy stump for Kerry - independents seem to be moderate to conservative. Lieberman was able to pull together some McCain independents, but his message did not connect and he came in a distant fifth.
Edwards surged - but he did not have the field organization to assist in controlling and maintaining the surge. Sure, missing third by a few hundred votes is pretty remarkable for a guy who was very low in the polls. Many from the Gephardt organization offered to work for Edwards at the end. But the campaign said they couldn't pay them so they went elsewhere - mainly to Kerry. This was short-sighted by the Edwards camp. There had been rumors that Edwards was already reaching his maximum spending limits in New Hampshire, but I have no idea what he spent this money on.
The Dean campaign failing to inform neighborhood residents about their event was a major problem. If this happened throughout the state, then he potentially missed meeting thousands of voters. The Dean campaign also failed to contact voters via mail in the late stages of the campaign, instead sinking millions in TV ads in the last days of the campaign and handing out 75,000 videos of Dean with his wife. The Dean campaign was different from many campaigns of the past because it was a more holistic environment, as described in a Concord Monitor article. Campaign volunteers were not told to do certain jobs for the candidate. Instead, they were asked what they would like to do for the campaign and then tasks were created based on the interests of the volunteer. The organization was also said to be more group-think and not top-down leadership. While this is an interesting way to keep volunteers plugged in and can accentuate the best abilities of different people, a campaign also has to make sure the hard work of winning gets done. If everyone wants to noodle on a blog, organize a Meet-up that turns into a fan club meeting and not a serious organizational meeting, or work on a Web site, but not do lit drops or make phone calls, a campaign will be doomed. At the end, the UAW, SEIU and others tried to kick the old-style campaign into gear, enough so that a whole second building was rented to coordinate the volunteers and phone banks. Unfortunately for the insurgent, it was too little, too late. Karen Hicks, a protege of former NH-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, should be commended for taking a no-name governor, from a very small state to a second-place finish.
Three weeks ago, Kerry looked dead. But with the help of Shaheen, a master organizer in New Hampshire, he was able to turn it around. The bumper sticker slogan "Dated Dean, Married Kerry" seemed laughable in December. But it will be remembered for years to come. Also, hundreds of Massachusetts residents and political operatives spent a lot of time here doing work. These guys are fierce campaign operatives. They know how to win campaigns. They know how to play a hand. And they know all the tricks - dirty and clean - of politics. But Kerry also had some help - a lot of help - from the national press corps - and the elites of the Democratic Party - who manipulated the national press corps into challenging the validity of Dean. The result was instilling fear into the voter that Dean couldn't beat President Bush. Sure, Dean probably shouldn't have screeched during his third place speech in Iowa. But Kerry has some major flaws that haven't been looked at. And these elitists could be leading the party down a dangerous path.
Take one example: Massachusetts Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh, who is a partner at the Dewey Square Group, is a FoxNews political analyst. The Dewey Square Group is Michael Whouley's firm. Whouley is Kerry's field organizer. So when Marsh is spinning about Kerry looking presidential on TV, she is benefitting her business partner, with no disclaimer about her financial ties by FoxNews. This isn't unusual over at FoxNews. Bill Kristol is an analyst, even though he was one of the architects of the Iraqi invasion plan through his thinktank, the Project for a New American Century. It isn't like FoxNews has 20 million viewers either. So, the manipulation is limited. But the newsmakers, the junkies, and the influential watch the news channels. And they regurgitate the spin - even if they may not know where it is coming from or who is behind it.
The footnote of the New Hampshire 2004 primary will not be about field organization, candidate missteps or public policy positions. What will be remembered about this race is the manipulation of New Hampshire voters through tracking polls after the Iowa Caucus results and the voters' obsession with beating President Bush in the final election.
Now, on to the south and west. gets it wrong was one of the go-to sites during the New Hampshire Primary.
In the early stages of the campaign, the site kept track of how candidates were faring with the state's power elite. A tally board of endorsements was posted, with candidate ups and downs. But by the fall, the site shifted from gossipy content to hard news content, with numerous reports from the field. And they, well, mainly one guy, James Pindell, did a pretty good job. However, on the newspaper endorsements page, they got it all wrong.
According to the site, Wesley Clark and John Kerry each received five endorsements, Joe Lieberman received three, Howard Dean and John Edwards each received one: ["Endorsements"]. But while looking at the actual endorsements offered by newspapers, Dean received nine endorsements, not one.
The publisher of Salmon Press, a chain of eight newspapers, endorsed Dean for each newspaper. In one of the newspapers, the Berliner Reporter, the editor endorsed Edwards. In another, the Carroll County Independent, the editor endorsed Kerry. But didn't post the publisher's endorsement, only the editor's endorsements. When informed of the inaccurate information via email, did not make a correction.
Bias? Manipulation? Against Dean? Who knows. But whatever the reason, the site gave a false impression about the endorsements and left a gray mark on an otherwise excellent political site.

Apologies to the normal
First, it was MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Now, a columnist in Texas: ["Difference between us and Dean? Not a whole yell of a lot"].
We who work in the news media owe Howard Dean an apology about the way we reported his primal scream during the past week. We are responsible for a grave injustice.
No kidding. The media throttled Dean like he was a plucked chicken and it was pretty pathetic. And now a do-nothing Massachusetts senator, a northeastern liberal, with blue-blood ties, is the frontrunner. Yikes. Is this a recipe for disaster? Maybe. Unless Kerry puts Dick Gephardt on the ticket and lets the guy run wild across the Midwest in the general election. Otherwise, it is probably over.
Speaking of pundits, here is the Boston Globe's Brian McGrory's take on it: ["Dear voters, You're fired"].

A brokered convention?
It's possible: ["Down to the wire?: Tight campaign may lead to brokered convention"].
As a political scientist, a brokered convention is almost too much to hope for,'' [Dante] Scala said. "It might be good for the party because it would keep the Democrats in the public eye for weeks and weeks - it's a new story. And it might keep (President) Bush off the front pages for a while.
I have been saying that I doubt there will be a brokered convention. But I bet it will come close to that. And a look to the future: ["Next round of primaries looking more crucial"].

Push push, shove shove

Al Franken, violent? No, he's just preserving free speech while suppressing others: ["Franken fights back vs. Dean dissenter"].

Other stuff
About $9 million dollars was spent on advertising alone for the New Hampshire primary. This seems a bit low but who knows. Not all the candidates can spend money like Steve Forbes.
When asked if he would take the VP slot on a Kerry ticket, Edwards snapped at a Channel 7 reporter, "No!" adding, that Kerry might be considered for a place on his ticket.
Unconstitutional!: Well, it's about time: ["Part of Patriot Act Ruled Unconstitutional"].
The Humanitarian Law Project, which brought the lawsuit, said the plaintiffs were threatened with 15 years in prison if they advised groups on seeking a peaceful resolution of the Kurds' campaign for self-determination in Turkey.
Jeez, a peaceful resolution? Who would want such a thing?

More polls
Survey USA has the latest tracking poll numbers:
In South Carolina, John Edwards has a solid lead with 32 percent; Wesley Clark has 17 with Howard Dean close behind at 16 percent. John Kerry has 13 percent and the Rev. Al Sharpton slips down to 10 percent. Joe Lieberman has 5 percent and Dennis Kucinich has 1 percent. Undecided make up 5 percent.
In Arizona, Kerry has 30 percent with Clark at 24 and Dean at 23 percent. Lieberman has 10, Edwards 7, and others have 3 percent. Undecided makes up 2 percent.
In Florida, Kerry has 38 percent, with Dean at 16, Edwards has 14, Clark at 10, Lieberman with 8, Sharpton at 6 percent. Other make up 3 percent and Undecided have 5 percent.