The GOP May Still Have a Data/Consultant Problem

A friend of mine sent me the text below after a maddening experience in a competitive House race going door to door.

I thought we were suddenly on the march with data and had our act together. I can confirm the details and it is rather horrifying.


The key highlights

  • Voter canvassing for a Republican candidate in a competitive House race
  • 44-page walk list on a clip board
  • Little to no targeting — in some neighborhoods you’ll walk every house
  • Houses included hard Democrats
  • Walk list sent canvassers bouncing back and forth on opposite sides of the streets
  • Confusing Scantron-like bubbles bound to result in inaccurate data
  • Not enough walk lists to go around

Worth nothing that this is only one House race, but it is a competitive race and the Republican has an involved, prominent consultant.

It’s October which means crunch time for campaigns. I knocked on doors for the Republican candidate in a competitive House race last weekend, excited to take part in an efficient canvassing effort. I should have saved my enthusiasm.

“Are you kidding me!?”

I stared down at the paper walk list on a clip board in my hand. 44 pages of printed names and addresses. I did a double take. The first handful of pages included every single address on the first street. I texted a campaign staffer to make sure I didn’t have a defective list. He replied that in some neighborhoods we’ll walk every house. Excuse me? With just one month until Election Day we’re not targeting voters?

OK, so I’m hitting every house. What do I know about each household? My list gave me the name and age of every voter, but no voting history. A glance at the arial map at the front of the walk list showed that some of these houses included hard Democrats but didn’t pinpoint which ones. Ruh roh.

Armed with the campaign literature handed to me by a staffer, I started with the first house and went down the walk list. I found myself zigzagging down the street, crossing the street to reach a house on the opposite side and then back over again. A great way to burn some extra calories, but not the best use of my time and energy.

Soon I began to ignore the order of homes on the walk list, hitting all even numbers on one side of the street and doubling back to hit the odd numbers, filling out the walk list backwards as I retraced my steps. Thankfully, I was joined by another volunteer and hit separate houses when it made sense. (Did I mention that the campaign did not have enough walk lists to go around and matched up two people per walk list? Yeah…)

A word about the survey. Our task was simple. We asked each voter if they were voting on November 4th and if they planned to vote for our candidate(s). But the walk list included six scantron-like bubbles for each question (flashbacks of high school SAT tests), making recording answers a more complicated process than it had to be. This was bound to result in inaccurate data on some level. Time spent making sense of the 40+ page walk list, hitting every house on a street, rearranging pages blown off the clip board, and filling in the bubbles for each answer was grossly wasted. But I care about this candidate and wanted to help get out this important vote, so I pushed to finish the 300+ names on my list.

Then, with 10 pages left to go, we ran out of campaign lit. Game over.

I can’t remember the last time I used a pen and paper, let alone a bubble sheet, to record anything important. Republicans are still doing the wrong things with GOTV and it’s slowing us down. We’re already playing catch up and we can’t afford to give campaign staff and volunteers outdated methods to reach voters and record data. It’s time to start acting like the modern campaigns we claim to be.



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