With just three months until the mayoral primary, campaigns are shifting toward developing field teams to bring out the vote on election day. Get Out the Vote (GOTV) is literally the last thing a campaign does, but it is something all good campaigns begin to plan for months, if not years, in advance.
There are three main components to running a successful field campaign:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Identify who is likely to vote for your candidate.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Make sure that they can vote for your candidate i.e. they are registered to vote.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ And, sure they do vote for your candidate, which in this circumstance means that they go to the polls.
Sounds pretty simple and in theory, it is but for a citywide campaign, there are lots of moving parts that take significant planning and massive amounts of manpower to actually get it done. The effort involves knocking on doors, making final rounds of phone calls, shaking hands at SEPTA stops and handing out literature at polling places. It means having drivers ferry around election-day workers to targeted areas so they can knock on doors. Sometimes, it literally means getting them to the polls: picking them up, driving them there, waiting for them to vote, driving them home.
You need a detailed plan to make sure everything you need to do actually gets done. Most campaigns do their GOTV planning in-house it's done either by their field director or campaign manager and layer in support from interest groups or organizations to supplement their own cadre of volunteers to get voters to the polls.
Volunteers are the best source of election-day workers because of how committed they are. Some volunteers get a daily stipend sometimes known as "street money" but that doesn't make them any less effective. Most good campaigns have a volunteer coordinator whose sole job is to find, recruit and train volunteers. Campaigns also team up with organizations that can provide lots of workers, such as unions and ward leaders.
One of the main reasons to have a union endorse a candidate is the number of workers they can provide for election day. (Other reasons are the money they can donate and the press coverage they can generate.)
Dwight Evans has been racking up most of the union endorsements so far, but expect Bob Brady to begin to roll them out. The ward structure which Brady was just endorsed by is an important part of a field plan, but one that lessens in importance every year. This year will be a major test to see if it retains any relevance.
The good thing is that unions usually don't cost candidates money, while the ward structure almost uniformly does. Since some unions are good at helping get out the vote just as some ward leaders are and some are not, how does a candidate know which is which? This brings me to a discussion of the charlatans out there who tell candidates they "control" a block of voters or election-day workers who can help a candidate win. Of course, all it will take is some money paid directly to them.
Most of these people are hustlers. Some ward leaders are hustlers. Some "political consultants" are hustlers. If you are running for office, you need to find someone you can trust and who knows the players. Otherwise, you will get fleeced and have little to show for it. Ask any number of city judicial candidates.
So can a good GOTV operation turn a loser into a winner? No.
But in a close race, the quality, size and efficiency of a campaign's GOTV operation can make the difference. Experts say that a good GOTV operation is worth two to three points on election day.
All you need to do is look at what happened to Sam Katz in 1999. He didn't have much of a field team, but John Street did. And, Street won by fewer than two points. Why does that matter today? Street's team is now working for Chaka Fattah.
Having toiled inside the belly of the local political beast for years, The Insider will offer a weekly perspective on the looming primaries.