The 2023 Guide To Winning Republican Elections
A political guide to winning elections for Conservatives
Val Ojeda, Columnist file photo (2021)
Warning. Today's writing is not a regular news story, column or article but a guide to help Conservative candidates and political committees/organizations win political office.
Val Ojeda, Writer
Are you a candidate running for political office? If so, let me help you.
Let me show you a method that's been proven time and time again. It's a grassroots tactic that will take hard work but after all is said and done, it will give you a pathway to victory.
The effects of trends and canvassing to win the 2023 and 2024 elections by utilizing targeted data focussing on minority voters as well as crossover Democrat votes and Independents utilizing voter registration and other data to get out the vote (GOTV) this includes fieldwork in your precincts.
As a political strategist, I know trends. It's like the character in Casino played by Robert DeNiro who could predict wins in the horse races or ball games by having access to information such as player injuries or drug abuse. If the horse is or injured. Where to find the fix to predict the win sometimes in what quarter of the game or by how many points. It can be done. In politics you use the same factors.
I've worked on hundreds of political races. Working for political think tanks and other political agencies and 501c3s. I've worked on two Trump Presidential campaigns and mostly federal races for Congressional and Senate candidates. I participated in exit polling and psychographics campaigns. We would question everyday Americans undercover about political policies and why they were not happy with their elected leaders. We would then pool this data. That would give us an idea of who would vote. How would they vote and who would they vote for? Many times it's because of the current political climate, like what's happening to us today with COVID-19 and the government mandated shutdowns. Sometimes it's about the economy or lack of jobs. Many factors come into play such as Joe Biden's corruption and his attack on the 2nd Amendment.
If people are oppressed, they will vote you out. Democrat or Republican. You don't mess with two things. The People's money or freedoms. That is why Barack Obama was elected. Thus throbbing the White House from the Republicans. In 2008, he ran a campaign on “change” Bush was President and Americans were protesting the war that cost thousands of lives over a lie about weapons of mass destruction and his bailout of the billionaire elites on Wall Street with the “To big to fail crisis” The bailout (TARP) was originally budgeted for 800 billion but eventually cost us one trillion dollars. Bush doubled the national debt to 20 trillion dollars. Adding 10 trillion for the cost of the war and the financial bailouts. By the way, the U.S. under Bush nationalized the banks, making the U.S. a socialist government. Obama was the new face of the country because of this reason.
Obama noticed these trends and referred with heartfelt eloquence to middle-class fears during the campaign and early years of the Obama presidency, including:
The climbing unemployment rate
The staggering home foreclosure rate gripping the nation
Crashing 401(k) and pension plans, leaving retirements in limbo
48 million Americans without healthcare insurance
High percentages of public schools failing our children
The continuing struggle of middle-class families to balance work and parenting demands
In vivid contrast, his opponent in the campaign Senator John and particularly Cindy McCain exuded an aura of financial insularity and well-heeled elegance. Both were born wealthy and were quite wealthy for their entire lives. When cornered by Pastor Rick Warren during the campaign, John McCain defined “rich” as" I think if you're just talking about income, how about $5 million.” Middle-class anger was palpable about economic fairness during those tough financial times and came after what many viewed as Bush and Vice President Cheney as billionaire elites. They were. The reason we went to war was because as the former CEO of Haliburton Cheney stood to make billions. They were the number one contractor in the two wars.
So Obama offered his "Change" of liberal policy solutions to help middle-class Americans, including:
A detailed 12-point program to repair the economy for middle-class families, including a $1,000 tax cut, creation of 5 million new jobs, protection of family homes from foreclosure, and reform of unfair bankruptcy laws.
A Small Business Emergency Rescue Plan which included emergency lending for small and family-owned businesses, special tax incentives, and tax cuts, and expansion of Small Business Administration support and services.
A specific plan to reform Wall Street practices, including new regulation of the financial markets, to blunt the greedy influence of special interests, crackdown on manipulation of financial markets, and more.
John McCain's tin ear on middle-class financial woes was evident in his prescription for the economy: more tax-cuts for major corporations, and continuation of the Bush tax cuts for U.S. millionaires. And this McCain stance was consistent with his stated desire to slash Medicare and privatize Social Security. The American public was fed-up with failed Bush/McCain economics, which claimed that prosperity would eventually “trickle-down” to everyone else. Obama won the presidential race largely because voters perceived that he, and not John McCain, cared about them and he would address middle-class economic struggles and inequities. The people never trusted another Republican after Bush. McCain was insincere. He could not be trusted by both liberals and conservatives. So, the Democrats took control of the White House once again.
Yet, after 8 years of Obama and him raising the national debt to 30 billion dollars because of entitlements and foreign aid. The people wanted “change” again. Why? Over regulation. The attack on personal freedoms. Political attacks. The attack on the 2nd Amendment and wanting to disarm Americans. Our military was weak. Obamacare failed. The economy was in shambles. Unemployment was on the rise. Entitlements and freebies like Obama phones were on the rise and the middle-class rose again after 2011 “Occupy Wall Street '' came into play to fight the system. Who knew that Obama was protecting the billionaires, making him one once he was elected. Soon people saw those trends and a new leader for a real “change” stepped up, Donald J. Trump wants to Make America Great Again!
Trump never ran for office before. But he was a mitigation expert, a strategist. Also he hired the greatest political minds including Roger Stone to help run his campaign with proven methods. He used trends to anticipate the vote.
When I got recruited and hired by the campaign as the Hispanic Coalition Leader, I saw those trends personally. Minorities and Democrats crossed over and voted for Trump because as a businessman he had a plan. People were desperate for new leadership, and Hillary Clinton would be another Obama. They saw her as an elitist. They voted Republican based on emotions. Common sense said to vote for a former Secretary of State like Clinton over a “Celebrity Apprentice” TV star. The problem was that Trump appealed to people's emotions over her political experience and won their vote regardless of being outspent. People trusted him. This is the same guy that would be on the WWE wrestling program numerous times, entertaining the blue-collar workers and middle America. Over 20 million of them a week would watch him as not a billionaire, but one of them. They accepted him.
The same happened in Illinois when Bruce Rauner was elected Governor. After Rod Blagovevich, the Illinois Governor, was arrested, people were fed up with Democrat corruption. That's why 500,000 Democrats voted for Rauner. They saw him as “change” a self financed man that could not be bought. A man with a plan to rescue Illinois. Incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Quinn ran for re-election to a second full term in office. Quinn, then the Lieutenant Governor, assumed the office of Governor on January 29, 2009, upon the impeachment and removal of Rod Blagojevich. He narrowly won a full term in 2010. Primary elections were held on March 18, 2014. Quinn won the Democratic primary, while the Republicans chose businessman Bruce Rauner and the Libertarians nominated political activist Chad Grimm.
Before this cycle, candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor were nominated separately, and the primary winners ran on the same ticket in the general election. In 2011, the law was changed to allow candidates for Governor to pick their own running mates. Incumbent Democratic Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon did not run for re-election, instead running unsuccessfully for Comptroller. She was replaced as Quinn's running mate by former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas. Rauner selected Wheaton City Councilwoman Evelyn Sanguinetti, and Grimm chose Alex Cummings.
Rauner defeated Quinn in the general election with 50.3% of the vote to Quinn's 46.4%, winning every county in the state except for Cook County, home to the city of Chicago and 40% of the state's residents. Quinn was the only incumbent Democratic governor to lose a general election in 2014. As of 2022, this is the last time an incumbent Democratic governor lost reelection in any state.
The 2014 Illinois election's turnout was:
For the primary election, turnout was 16.88%, with 1,267,028 votes cast. For the general election, turnout was 48.48%, with 3,627,690 votes cast.
About one in three voters cast ballots in person on Election Day. Another one-third voted by mail, and a third voted early.
As you remember, Rauner ended up losing to J.B. Pritzker in the 2018 general election after spending 65 billion dollars. The reason he lost was because he failed to keep his promises to conservatives. He became a pro-abortion Republican. He gave amnesty to illegal aliens and raised taxes. Under his watch, he oversaw a liberal agenda that was bad for Illinois, enraging Republicans. He was primaried by former Rep. Jeannie Ives.
After his loss, he fled to Florida, taking his fortune with him. He never donated to the Illinois Republican Party again.
One of the most amazing things happened to the Republican Party, in 2016. Trump went on to beat Hillary Clinton. For 4 years, the United States became a superpower again. People went back to work. We began collecting tariffs again, especially from China. The industry was booming. The DOW surpassed 30,000 points. We projected our military abroad. Russia. Iran and North Korea feared Trump.
Under Trump, your financial investments boomed. Businesses took off. The U.S. began trading more, and the dollar had value again. He controlled immigration and he was tough on crime.
Then came the 2020 re-election. The steal.
We can all agree that the 2020 election was stolen, however , Illinois was dead on arrival because outside of California, it was a deep blue state and after the effects of the George Floyd riots, Illinois Democrats mobilized the vote.
In Illinois, Biden defeated Trump, winning 57.54% of the vote to Trump's 40.55%, winning by nearly the same 17-point margin by which Hillary Clinton carried the state in 2016. The small shift of 0.08 percentage points towards the Republicans made Illinois one of just seven states to move to the right in 2020. Libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen, a native of Grayslake, won 1.1% of the state's vote, with other minor candidates winning less than 1%. Biden's win in Illinois was largely the result of a lopsided 74.3% victory in Cook County, the state's most populous county and home of Chicago.
Per exit polls, Biden's strength came from a coalition of key Democratic constituencies: he garnered 92% of votes from Blacks; 68% from Latinos, including 67% of Latinos of Mexican heritage; 53% from union households; and 50% of Whites. Biden flipped McLean County (Bloomington-Normal) and Kendall County (suburban county of Chicago), both of which had voted for Obama in 2008 but then for Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Biden became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 to be elected president without winning formerly Democratic leaning Alexander County, solidifying the rural shift towards Republicans in elections.
Illinois was one of five states in the nation in which Biden's victory margin was larger than 1 million raw votes, the others being California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Illinois held its primary elections as scheduled, despite concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Election officials in Illinois acknowledged that they believed turnout was unusually low. In the state-run primaries (Democratic and Republican), turnout was 28.36%, with 2,279,439 votes cast. The 28.36% turnout marked an 18.2 percentage point decrease from the turnout in the 2016 state-run presidential primaries, but a similar turnout to the 2000, 2004, and 2012 presidential primaries. The state-run primary elections for the Democratic and Republican parties were held on March 17, 2020. The Green Party had organized its primary on March 14, 2020.
2020 Trump Grassroots Campaign
Canvassing helped Trump win the vote in 2020 before it was stolen. We knocked on one million doors a week. We also rallied the troops. Look at the trends. Trump would speak at five rallies in a day with 30,000 people present, versus Biden who would speak a few days a week with only 50 people in the audience.
From now until Election Day, voters may only see one campaign at their doors,” Elliott Echols, the RNC's national field director in 2020. “If this were Barack Obama running, Democrats would want to be out there knocking doors. They don’t have enthusiasm or a strong field operation, so it is a convenient excuse. We can do this safely for President Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot.”
Both campaigns are funneling millions of dollars into their field programs. Trump Victory has over 1,500 full-time staffers across 23 states, and it has required staffers to read “Groundbreakers: How Obama's 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America," a close look at Obama’s 2008 and 2012 ground games. The RNC says they will add an additional 1,000 people by the end of September to focus on doors and get out the vote.
Biden’s organizing program was slow to ramp up after the primary. Senior leadership for critical states like Florida and Pennsylvania were announced only in July, and the campaign set a goal of just 600 hires by the end of June. The Biden campaign, however, told POLITICO it will have over 2,000 battleground staffers by the end of August through a coordinated committee with the DNC. Political scientists disagree on the extent to which organizing programs matter, but it's broadly acknowledged that they can sway a close race and that they are particularly effective in turning out base voters. Operatives say such organizing could be even more important than usual this fall because of the surge in mail-in ballots.
Reminding voters to fill out their ballot and then collecting them — or “ballot harvesting” as some field organizers call it — is one of the most critical programs in any campaign, although laws on it vary by state. Biden campaign staffers said they likely would not do in-person ballot collection but expressed optimism that they could deploy an effective program regardless through phone and text, pointing to their successful efforts in Wisconsin this spring in a state Supreme Court race. Later, it was discovered this is how the Democrats stole the election.
The decision to forgo door-knocking is part of a larger gamble that voters will give Biden credit for taking the coronavirus more seriously than Trump. The strategy has extended to Biden’s own activities: He’s been mocked by Trump for campaigning from his basement, though Biden has ventured out to more public events. The campaign’s Philadelphia headquarters is mostly empty, and many new hires are working remotely.
Trump was losing ground, but Democrats were careful in Pennsylvania. Trump and his campaign have been far less restrained, betting that voters won’t be turned off by campaign workers ringing their doorbells. Officials reported to work at Trump campaign headquarters in suburban Washington, D.C., where some have said they feel peer pressure not to wear masks. Some Democratic operatives believed that Biden's shift to phone and digital will end up resounding to his benefit because of COVID-19. You have to go hands on, though. People respond better to an in your face visit, with Trump field workers.
Politics is the last remaining marketing entity — which essentially is what a campaign is — that utilizes door knocking as a technique. The Trump approach of measuring door knocks is very antiquated but effective, and I think the Biden campaign may be following that model if they hadn’t been forced to think differently because they’re acting supposedly responsibly in a pandemic. The dueling approaches are apparent in down-ballot races as well — a dynamic that is giving some Democrats anxiety and stoking anger at Republicans for their lack of caution. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said its field staffers are being trained for organizing that’s not done in-person. A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson was not aware of any Democratic Senate campaign doing in-person canvassing.
The contrast is on display even in Montana, with its spread-out population and relatively low Covid-19 caseload. State Republicans are knocking on doors for Sen. Steve Daines, but Democrats are not doing so for his challenger, Gov. Steve Bullock, who is running on his leadership during the pandemic. The RNC declined to say whether any field staffers or volunteers have tested positive for Covid-19 but said every staff member is provided an eight-page document of health protocols including CDC guidance. The committee said it provides canvassers with masks and encourages them to take a few steps back after knocking on doors. A spokesperson added that the committee has spent over $100,000 on PPE and office cleaning.
The partisan divide over in-person campaigning is a manifestation of the deeper political divisions that have scrambled America’s response to the public health crisis. Republicans are less supportive of mask mandates and have felt more comfortable going to public places like restaurants and salons than Democrats, according to polls.
Many Republican lawmakers rallied behind small-business owners who have broken lockdown orders. Some Democratic governors and lawmakers have been much stricter about lockdowns and mask mandates, while Republicans have argued that some measures are creating more problems than the disease.
That divide may make it impossible for Democratic campaigns to deploy door-knockers, even if they want to. Progressive Turnout Project, a deep-pocketed liberal super PAC that hired hundreds of field staffers to knock on doors in competitive states this year, began sending canvassers back into the field earlier this summer. The group soon faced a public resignation, a staffer who tested positive for Covid-19, and a revolt from lower-level employees over safety. A Democratic group suspended all door-to-door canvassing and said their staffers — approximately 1,200 across 17 states — would focus on phone calls, texting and “relational organizing. Among the many impossible-to-predict consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic for the 2020 presidential campaign, this may be one of the most surprising: The Trump campaign has taken door-knocking much more seriously than the Biden campaign.
Door-to-door canvassing — where campaign workers knock on doors to either persuade residents to vote for their candidate or remind the already persuaded to turn out — is traditionally a strong suit of Democratic campaigns. “Field,” as it’s called, is where many leading party strategists, from 2008 Obama campaign manager David Plouffe to 2020 Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon, came up. Political scientists have written whole books about Obama’s effort to mobilize millions of volunteers for field operations in 2008 and 2012. In 2016, the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton was a heavy favorite to defeat Trump derived partly from a sense she had a better “ground game.” But in 2020, the politics of Covid-19 mean that pattern is reversed. Trump is knocking on doors, and Biden, until very recently, was not.
In late August, the Trump campaign in Michigan boasted that it has “an army of over 43,000 volunteers and staff covering all 83 counties,” whereas the state Democratic Party told reporter Jonathan Oosting it was “not yet comfortable” knocking on doors. On August 28, the Trump campaign bragged about knocking on its 1 millionth door in Florida. Door-knocking numbers like this aren’t really useful (they don’t tell you how many people were actually contacted), but the pattern is illustrative.
The Biden campaign responded to the risk that door-to-door canvassing will spread Covid-19 infection by shutting down its door-knocking efforts. On October 1, O’Malley Dillon finally announced the campaign would start limited door-knocking efforts, but only after months of not doing any door-knocking at all. The Trump campaign, reflecting the president’s efforts to downplay the pandemic and speed up “reopening,” is doing the opposite, and still doing volunteer recruitment for canvassing. Given the central role canvassing has played in recent Democratic presidential campaigns, you would think this discrepancy would prompt some concern among Democrats who believe in the ground game. But some people in the world of Democratic campaigns are coming around to a different view: Maybe door-knocking really isn’t as important.
Most political scientists affirmed this view. Melissa Michelson, an expert on field experiments for voter turnout, said, “That the Biden campaign can’t engage in door-to-door canvassing is maybe not that big of a loss because we actually have tons of data about how to effectively and in a cost-efficient way mobilize voters from all different parts of the Democratic coalition younger voters, low-income voters, Black voters, Latino voters without going door to door.” Indeed, there’s a growing body of research suggesting that methods like calling voters and “relational” voter turnout seem to be as effective if not more effective than traditional door-knocking. To be clear, there’s a consensus that field work can juice turnout and even persuade voters in primary elections or local elections where the candidates are less well-known and voters’ opinions are less formed.
But skeptics argue that you can’t just look at whether the effect of a field operation is positive or negative. You have to ask how many votes it pulls in per dollar spent, and compare that to whatever the equivalent figure is on alternative uses of campaign money: TV ads, digital ads, direct mail, and non-knocking fieldwork like phone banking. Given the expense of running a good field team, skeptics argue that the cost-per-vote is too high relative to alternatives and that Covid-19 might serendipitously be pushing campaigns away from inefficient uses of resources and toward more efficient ones. “There’s not any other kind of information we try to communicate by going door to door,” says David Shor, an independent Democratic data analyst who helped develop Obama’s data analytics operation in 2012. When big companies want to get the word out about their products, they use ads and Shor and other field skeptics think campaigns should double down on those, too
Persuading voters in presidential general elections is difficult. It’s important to distinguish between two different purposes of political campaigns. One purpose is persuasion: convincing an undecided voter, or even one who’s decided for the other candidate, to support your candidate. The other purpose is turnout: getting people who are already persuaded to support your candidate to actually vote. Persuasion obviously happens by some mechanism in elections, swing voters are rare, but real, and a large number of voters switched from supporting Trump in 2016 to supporting Democrats in the 2018 midterms. That’s persuasion of at least some kind taking place.
We found that there’s lots of room for persuasion in primaries; a canvass during the 2015 Philadelphia mayoral primary, an open race where voters didn’t know the candidates that well, was quite effective. But in general elections? Nope. The best estimate for the persuasive effects of campaign contact and advertising such as mail, phone calls, and canvassing on Americans’ candidate choices in general elections is zero. Our best guess for online and television advertising is also zero, but there is less evidence on these modes. But canvassing is still the most effective in gaining voter confidence. There are unique circumstances where persuasion tactics become more effective for campaigns. But the 2020 presidential election doesn’t feel like one of them. Voters know who Donald Trump is. They know who Joe Biden is. Given everything, voters have learned about both of them over the past four years.
Turning out existing voters, however, is possible. Even though campaign contact doesn’t seem to persuade people in general elections, it’s not necessarily a bad idea. That’s because campaign contact can increase turnout, too. The empirical literature here was kicked off by political scientists Alan Gerber and Donald Green two decades ago, and their book Get Out the Vote! Is still one of the best sources on the evidence base around the effectiveness of canvassing, phone banking, and direct mail at turning out voters. In the book’s fourth edition, released in 2019, Gerber and Green estimate that the average per-conversation effect size of canvassing turnout operations is 4.0; the average effect of commercial phone banks is 0.947; the average effect of volunteer phone banks is 2.8. This is across a variety of elections, though, not just presidential ones, where effect sizes might be lower.
That’s a lot of numbers, so let me spell it out: If canvassing has an effect size of 4.0, that means that a door-knocking operation that knocks on 5,000 doors, and gets a response at 1,000 of those doors (a pretty standard or even high response rate) will generate 40 new voters. Similarly, a volunteer phone bank that reaches 1,000 people will produce about 28 new voters, since the effect size is 2.8. Contacting voters by phone might be just as good as door-knocking anyway. When you put it like that, it makes door-knocking look considerably better than calling voters, which is likely to replace it in a Covid-19 environment. But you can also talk to more people in an hour through phone banking than through canvassing. You don’t have to walk or drive between addresses. Put it all together and Gerber and Green’s rough estimate is that canvassing can garner campaigns a vote for about $33, while volunteer phone-investment can garner a vote for $36 not too different, especially when you consider how imprecise these estimates necessarily are.
Michelson, the professor of political science at Menlo College, has evaluated dozens of experiments testing turnout and persuasion, reporting many in her 2012 book with UC Berkeley’s Lisa García Bedolla, Mobilizing Inclusion. They found that calling voters produced more consistently positive results than door-to-door canvassing, in part because it was easier for callers to stick to a script than it was for canvassers. “What we found is that although door-to-door canvassing could generate the largest effects, it was not actually our recommended method,” Michelson told me. “We thought that other things like two-round phone banks were more effective.” In “two-round” phone banks, voters are first contacted several weeks before the election, and then get a follow-up call to encourage them to vote a day or two before the election. Door-knocking and phone banking are not the only possible ways to contact voters, of course. Gerber and Green estimate that the average effect of conventional mailers from nonpartisan groups meant to get out the vote is 0.296 per mailer (so a mailer that reaches 1,000 people might produce 3 new voters). Robocalls and explicitly partisan direct mail (fliers advertising a particular candidate, say) don’t seem to have any effect.
But “social pressure” mailers have a bigger effect on average. In that tactic, campaigns or other turnout organizations use mail to remind voters that whether they voted in the past is public information, and share information on which of their neighbors voted. In a study of the June 2012 Wisconsin recall election for Gov. Scott Walker, Green, Harvard’s Todd Rogers, Yale’s John Ternovski, and Carolina Ferrerosa Young (now working for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner) found that social pressure mailers like this sent out by an anti-Walker group boosted turnout of Democratic-leaning voters substantially, working out to a cost per vote of roughly $55. And in a 2006 primary election in Michigan (a much less visible race), Gerber, Green, and Christopher Larimer found that social pressure mailers produced votes for $1.93 each, an astoundingly low price. Social pressure techniques can generate backlash — as when Ted Cruz used them in the 2016 Iowa caucus but used made-up voter histories and told voters they’d committed a “VOTER VIOLATION” in a font that kind of implied they’d done something illegal — but they seem consistently effective.
The limits of our existing data. There are a few factors, however, that complicate this public data. For one thing, only a small share of all studies conducted on the effects of canvassing and phone banking on turnout are public. The majority are conducted through firms like the Analyst Institute (for Democrats) or Evolving Strategies (for Republicans), and the results are typically proprietary. Democrats don’t want Republicans to benefit from studies they spent millions of dollars conducting and vice versa (though everyone acknowledges that Democrats invest vastly more in these kinds of experiments than Republicans do). Don Green, the Columbia political scientist and doyen of campaign field experiments, told me, “When [Gerber and I] do the meta-analysis, we are super careful to get our hands around everything we can find,” including unpublished working papers and even individual regressions. He believes that their public summary of the evidence is representative of what groups like the Analyst Institute know privately. But there’s a limit on how much journalists like me or the general public can know about the evidence base, given how much of it is secret.
Cyber and Digital Advertising
The other complication is that phone banking has diminished in effectiveness as people have moved to cell phones, which are harder to match to voter records, and which they’re less likely to use as phones and less likely to pick up calls from unfamiliar numbers. Parties are getting better at reaching cellphones — the Democratic National Committee announced a massive purchase of tens of millions of cellphone numbers in 2020, but it does complicate matters. Advertising matters potentially a lot. Digital advertising is another arrow in a campaign’s quiver. In recent months, it has become a highly public topic of controversy in light of Facebook and Twitter’s role in spreading false or misleading ads. Most evidence to date, though, is dismissive or murky as to digital advertising’s effectiveness. An early randomized experiment by Broockman and Green using Facebook found that ads weren’t effective at boosting favorability or name recognition for a Republican state legislative candidate or a Democratic congressional candidate. The nonpartisan group Rock the Vote conducted experiments in 2012 and 2013 using Facebook ads, garnering millions of impressions, meant to boost turnout, and found no difference between the treatment group and the control group.
Kalla evaluated a similar experiment conducted by NextGen Climate, an advocacy group founded and funded by billionaire Tom Steyer. The experiment assigned over 1 million voters in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Pennsylvania to receive online ads urging them to turn out and vote in the 2016 general election. Two-thirds of the ads were on Facebook. Kalla found a very small effect on turnout, with an overall cost of $474 per vote, which is very high compared to phone banking or door-knocking.
Political scientists tend to be similarly dismissive of television ads. “The turnout effects of TV and digital ads are basically zero,” Green told me, with some exceptions like Rock the Vote that he himself has tested. Green and UCLA’s Lynn Vavreck found that an advertisement specifically designed to boost youth turnout did just that — but most campaign ads aren’t as laser-focused on turnout.
But those TV ads are generally trying to do persuasion, not turnout — and some non-experimental papers suggest they help with persuasion. There’s a long history of observational studies (looking at ads after the fact rather than deploying them in a randomized way as part of a formal experiment) evaluating the effectiveness of TV ads, and analysts like Shor find them compelling. Moreover, they think the weight of the non-experimental evidence is more in favor of TV than against it. In 1999, University of Texas at Austin’s Daron Shaw found substantial statewide effects of TV advertising in statewide races from 1988 to 1996; a book by a trio of political scientists found that TV advertising was effective in the 2000 race. Studies analyzing the 2004 and 2006 elections came to similar conclusions. Most recently, a study under the unassuming title of “Political Advertising and Election Results,” from economists Jörg Spenkuch and David Toniatti pooled results across three elections and used a particularly compelling design. Spenkuch and Toniatti exploit the fact that TV ad-buying is done on the “media market” level, and that neighboring and similar counties are often in different “media markets” due to FCC regulations, to measure the effect of TV ads on US presidential elections from 2004 to 2012.
They find substantial effects: “Showing someone 100 ads in the month before the election in a presidential race increases their odds of voting for you by 1 percent,” Shor summarizes. If a TV ad costs only, say, $30 per 1,000 impressions, then that’s a much more favorable cost-per-vote than phone banking or canvassing. Shor also points to the 2020 primary for a particularly illustrative example:
Elizabeth Warren spent the entire cycle building up this massive army of organizers in Iowa who knocked on a bunch of doors. This is a low-salience race: only 7.6 percent of Iowans voted in the [Democratic] caucuses. But what [Pete] Buttigieg did is take roughly the same amount of money she spent on the field, and spent it on TV in the summer [of 2019]. That made him go up in the polls to the point that the media started covering him. That helped him raise more money so he could buy more TV, and he almost won. Shor’s conclusion: The Warren organizer-based model is a waste of money. The Buttigieg strategy, based on TV and earned media, got much closer to succeeding. “A solid 95 percent of people who work in data for politics are coordinating field programs, which is wild,” Shor says. “What we actually need are people with a different skill set, who are good at making ads, are good at ad tech, or work in video production. I have a friend who’s a professional video producer who was asking me where she should go to knock on doors. That’s a massive misallocation of resources.”
Others, like Green and Kalla, consider the Spenkuch/Toniatti study a rather thin reed to build a pro-TV, anti-field case upon. Kalla acknowledged that the study “changed my priorities a bit” in favor of TV being effective. But he noted that it identified “a very weird mechanism” for its effects. TV ads tend to be geared more toward persuasion than turnout. But TV, Spenkuch and Toniatti find, changes the turnout of the electorate. When one party has an advantage on TV, its supporters turn out more in general elections than supporters for the candidate who fell behind on TV ads. Green calls the study “basically an anomaly. What is the mechanism that would cause turnout to be the driving force behind a vote shift? That really struck me as strange.”
This debate might seem esoteric, but the stakes are high. If Shor (and Spenkuch/Toniatti and their precursors in the literature) are right, then campaigns should be investing far less in the ground game and much more in TV ads with messages refined and perfected through iterative field experiments. If Green is right, then phone banking and canvassing for turnout are still crucial activities for campaigns to be engaged in.
The future is canvassing your friends. Beyond the disagreement over TV, there’s widespread agreement and optimism across the political scientist/data consultant spectrum about the possibilities of “relational voter turnout” that exploits people’s friendships and social attachments. Case in point: In 2010, Facebook conducted a 61 million-person experiment testing whether a banner urging US members to vote in the midterm elections could juice turnout. Simply putting up an informational banner didn’t work at all. But including faces of friends who’d clicked an “I Voted” button was effective at increasing turnout. More recently, campaigns have turned to “relational voter turnout,” where instead of phone banking or canvassing strangers, volunteers try to turn out people close to them, like friends and family. Persuading friends and family can be hard, as anyone who’s gotten into a Facebook argument with an uncle can attest, but encouraging turnout is somewhat easier. “Everybody, even a relatively high-probability voter … would nonetheless know people in the same family, in the same congregation, on the same street, in the same workplace, you name it, who are low-propensity voters,” Green says. “That’s what you’re looking for in 2020: Find 10 people who haven’t voted in a while, are 19, etc.”
Recently, Green and Columbia University’s Oliver McClellan conducted an experiment for the nonpartisan group Turnout Nation in which 43 organizing “captains” in four states each put together lists of 20 “friends or relatives who would be eligible to vote” in upcoming municipal elections. Half of the names were assigned to be treated, meaning captains were encouraged to contact them and ask them to vote. The other half the captains were told not to contact. The effect was 13.2 percentage points, which the authors call “extraordinary, exceeding estimates from any other randomized trial on voter turnout.” In Ohio, where the program was more regimented, the effects were even greater. Shor disagrees with Green on TV ads, but he’s absolutely on board regarding relational organizing. One informal way for people to engage in it is to, well, post about who they’re voting for and remind people to vote on social media networks like Instagram and Facebook. “The most effective thing that anyone can do is go out and shit-post and talk to their friends and tell people what they believe and what they care about,” Shor says. “That’s what politics is about.”
2020 in general has been a year in which people have struggled to find digital, or at least socially distant, replacements for in-person experiences: eating at restaurants, connecting with friends, celebrating big events. While the particulars are controversial, one unanimous message from political scientists and election analysts is that electioneering translates quite well to a post-pandemic world. Campaign volunteers don’t necessarily need to knock on strangers’ doors as much as they need to be texting their friends to get them to vote. However as old fashioned as canvassing maybe, it still wins elections. So use it.
In 2022 we took Cyber campaigning to the next level. After years of having to perfect cyber messaging through text blasting and mass emails we found vendors that we could use that were inexpensive and cheaper than mailers. Let's face it. Everyone hates junk mail. Only 25% of residents that receive this junk political mail actually read it. For each piece of mail it costs the candidate 75 cents per household. For 3 cents you can get your message through to that same potential voter on a text message blast they are forced to read.
This is how it works. First you need the data. You can request the data from the state or your local Republican Party. These can be registered voters that are independent, Democrat or Republican. The data includes their name, address, voting record, age. Email and phone number. If they can't provide you this data then you can purchase this data through I360.
When you receive the data you would load it into a CSV file to upload it to a friendly vendor to do a text blast. You can send graphics, posters and videos for an extra cost of pennies. You can either hit the entire district or as in a primary just target independents and Republicans. You can spend as low as 3 cents to do this. This will save you 72 cents per household from not using mailers. This method is more effective. Trust me I've won a lot of races using this method.
Since you have this same data, subscribe to a free mass email system like MailChimp. You load the CSV file and start mass mailing with your message. Just like the text blast you can load graphics and videos. You can target who you want to receive the emails.
Another proven system is online newsletters. You can use your website or subscribe to an online vendor such as Substack. You can even receive paid subscribers. Using Substack. You can load your file there as well. The reach is greater because you can share this on social media with the appearance of a news article. The link can be shared by friends through email and shared texts.
Patriot Action PAC is here to help provide candidates with the tools necessary to win. We need to win these important races to take back our state and country. Our network consists of elected officials, former candidates, consultants, operatives and strategists. Combined we bring to the table years of experience on how to effectively win races. Let us help you win your race today!
Val Ojeda is a Republican Author, Media Personality, Strategist and Consultant. Ojeda manages federal political campaigns also serving as President Trump's Hispanic Coalition Leader. Ojeda is also a businessman, entrepreneur and the founder of FAMA a 501c3 Chamber of Commerce. Ojeda served as law enforcement Veteran Officer/Detective.
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