The Fighting 29th - GOTV Get Out The Vote efforts. en Three Calls I was called twice this evening by live Massa volunteers reminding me to get out and vote tomorrow. I also got a robo-call from Bill Clinton, sponsored by the DCCC, telling me to be sure to fill in my entire ballot.

]]> GOTV Mon, 03 Nov 2008 23:57:04 +0000 Rottenchester 5157 at
"Touches" Get out the vote (GOTV) efforts often talk about how many times the campaign "touches" a voter. Here's how I've been "touched" in the last week:

  • I've received three anti-Kuhl mailers from the DCCC. They are all essentially the same as this one, concentrating on jobs lost because of trade agreements.
  • I've gotten two robo-calls from "Accountable America". The first one pointed out that Kuhl received $300K from investment bankers and CEOs that caused the financial meltdown. The second concentrated on money Kuhl has taken from lobbyists. Both ended by urging me to call Congressman Kuhl and ask him what he would do to save Social Security.

Neither of these touches is very high-quality. In 2006, I wrote about a study that showed that the most effective GOTV efforts relied on human contact. There's been none of that so far in the 29th.

Perhaps the least effective "touch" I saw this week was targeted at Republicans on my street. On Saturday, a windy and rainy day, someone hung literature packets from mailbox flags. The wind soon blew them away and the street was littered with plastic bags containing sodden campaign fliers. Unfortunately, a lot of money spent in campaigns goes to wasted efforts like that one.

]]> Analysis GOTV Tue, 28 Oct 2008 00:34:47 +0000 Rottenchester 5118 at
Evening News: More Suffering, Endorsements, Calls The 13-WHAM has posted their story about Kuhl's "suffer" comment.

Reader Tom sends the City Newspaper endorsement of Eric Massa. City also has a profile of the 29th race.

Finally, Tom also sent this item from Politico which contains an e-mail soliciting DC-area Republicans to make phone bank calls. Randy Kuhl makes the top ten, with 338 calls.

]]> Endorsements GOTV News Wed, 22 Oct 2008 23:39:45 +0000 Rottenchester 5101 at
Lack of Coattails I'm on the Obama mailing list, and last night they sent me an email (embedded below) urging me to vote for Eric Massa.

That's about all the help Massa can expect from the Obama campaign, which isn't spending much in sure-win New York. That's unfortunate for Massa, because Obama is deploying the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation in recent Democratic history.

Similarly, Randy Kuhl can expect little help from the cash-strapped McCain campaign, which conceded New York before the election started.

According to independent polls, Obama and McCain are running neck-and-neck in the 29th, which is a switch from 2004, when Bush took the district by 14 points. But without a GOTV effort from either campaign, neither Congressional candidate will be riding coattails.

Dear Rottenchester,

You can change politics in this country at every level -- up and down the ballot.

Our records show that you live in New York's 29th district.

There's a candidate in New York who's working to bring the change this country needs, and that candidate is Eric Massa. Get involved and help bring change now.

Eric Massa for Congress:
Visit the website

Don't wait until Election Day to support Massa. Get involved today to make sure New York has a strong representative to take our country in a new direction.


Obama for America

P.S. -- To get involved with Obama for America in your community, visit your state page:

]]> Analysis GOTV Mon, 20 Oct 2008 11:05:11 +0000 Rottenchester 5089 at
The Most Important Election Day Factor Barring the discovery of one of the candidates in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, it's all down to turnout.  Kuhl has the 72 hour strategy, and Massa has his grassroots network of volunteers.  Both efforts pale in comparison to the weather.

The forecast for Tuesday is the same in the North and the South:  High 55, showers possible.  At this point, it looks like weather won't be an major issue.

]]> GOTV Sun, 05 Nov 2006 14:06:44 +0000 Rottenchester 4181 at
GOTV Evidence Reader Jack writes to inform us that the Massa Campaign, MoveOn and the DNC are running a targeted GOTV effort in Henrietta, concentrating on registered Democrats who don't vote regularly.  Anyone interested in this effort can meet tonight (10/30) or tomorrow night (10/31) at 7 p.m. at the Apollo Restaurant, 2091 East Henrietta Rd.

I've done this kind of stuff before.  It's hard work, and I have a soft spot for anyone who does it.  If you have a unique, not otherwise publicized GOTV effort for either candidate, feel free to send it in. I'll pimp it to my massive readership. As long as your realize that by "massive", I mean "tiny". 

]]> GOTV Mon, 30 Oct 2006 20:10:39 +0000 Rottenchester 4165 at
Hillary's $10 Million Hillary Clinton spent $10.1 million in the last quarter, $7 million of that in the last month alone, the most of any Senate candidate.  Much of that money is going to a "get-out-the-vote operation that we think is going to work for Democratic candidates throughout the state," according to her spokeswoman.  I posted about her GOTV effort earlier.  This is evidence that it is real.

]]> GOTV Wed, 25 Oct 2006 16:50:08 +0000 Rottenchester 4147 at
WFP Will GOTV Reader Anne writes to recommend an article about the Working Families Party's GOTV efforts.  The WFP has decided to target "blanks" or unaffiliated voters in three Northeast Congressional districts, including the 29th.  WFP internal polls show that these voters are receptive to the WFP's progressive message, which includes universal health care and opposition to free trade.

New York is one of the few states where candidates run on multiple party lines.  Eric Massa is running on the Working Families Party line as well as the Democratic line. 

I'm skeptical that unaffiliated voters, who have shown that they're not committed to the center-left Democrats, will be more receptive to the farther left message of WFP.  But GOTV is GOTV, and Massa can use anything he can get.  The downside of the WFP effort is that it is all direct mail in the 29th.  Direct mail is less effective than the canvassing and phone banks that WFP will use to support candidates in two other districts.

]]> GOTV Sat, 21 Oct 2006 13:59:30 +0000 Rottenchester 4134 at
GOTV by Party In the last post on GOTV, I reviewed the research on effective techniques.  The short answer is that the more personal the technique, the more effective it is.  So how are Kuhl and Massa's GOTV efforts stacking up?

The Massa campaign tends to live "out loud" on the Internet, so we can see that they've gotten the message about canvassing.  Last week, they began door-to-door efforts in Monroe and Ontario counties.  These counties are the newest addition to the 29th and residents there are probably the least acquainted with either candidate.   The Massa campaign is clearly doing their best with their limited resources.  If they receive some help from the Spitzer and Clinton campaigns, they might be able to have a GOTV effort that yields results next month.

Since the Kuhl campaign has a much less active Internet presence, we have to infer their plans from national Republican GOTV stories.  The Republican strategy, called the 72-Hour program, is the result of years of research by Republicans.  The GOP believes that they know the right mix of direct mail, phone contact and door-to-door solicitation that will turn out their base.  Republicans also tend to spend more on GOTV than Democrats, and they start earlier to make sure absentee voters cast their ballots.

The GOP honed their GOTV effort in last month's Rhode Island primary. Using a combination of microtargeting -- careful identification of sub-groups -- along with a large number of paid professionals brought in from out-of-state, Lincoln Chafee was able to beat back a strong primary challenge.   Republicans viewed this election as a dry run for November.

The Kuhl campaign has the potential of using the most sophisticated GOTV template in the business, but in a tough year, it's not clear what kind of resources they'll get to run the 72-Hour plan in the 29th.

]]> GOTV Wed, 04 Oct 2006 02:45:18 +0000 Rottenchester 4092 at
The Art and Science of GOTV Like most truisms, "it's all about turnout" is overused and undervalued. In the 29th, this is especially true. Since GOTV is so important in the 29th, I want to take an in-depth look at what's known about GOTV, beginning with "the book" on GOTV, Get Out the Vote! - How to Increase Voter Turnout.

GOTV! summarizes major recent research of the late '90s and early 2000s. It looks at partisan and non-partisan GOTV efforts, and it tries to assign a price per vote on common GOTV efforts.

The first interesting fact about GOTV studies is that there aren't many of them. Most campaigns don't want to be part of an experiment where half of the potential voters who serve as a control aren't contacted. The other interesting fact is that campaigns spend a lot of money on technologies, like robo-calls, that aren't very effective.

The main conclusion of this book is twofold: Personal approaches are more effective than impersonal ones, but personal approaches are harder to replicate on a large scale.

So, not surprisingly, the studies reviewed in the book find that the most effective approach is door-to-door canvassing. It's interesting that it really doesn't seem to matter what the canvassers say, as long as they meet a minimum level of competence. It's all in the personal contact, which puts a face on the campaign of one of the candidates.

The downside of knocking on doors is that eligible voters are hard to find, and that it's hard to find the teams of volunteers, or hard to manage paid canvassers. Canvassing is also hard to scale - you can contact a few thousand voters this way, but getting to hundreds of thousands of voters is much more difficult.

Leaving leaflets (such as door hangers), the poor cousin of canvassing, is less effective than direct personal contact, but partisan leaflets have been shown to increase turnout by a small but statistically significant amount.

Methods that don't involve feet on the street still have some effect, but that effect is again proportional to the personal contact. The effectiveness of phone banks seems to be directly related to how "conversational" the contact is. If the script is carefully constructed to solicit interaction with the person being called, and if the volunteer or professional making the call takes time to slowly and carefully go through the script, phone banks can have some effect.

Robo-calling, which is impersonal and non-conversational, was shown to have little or no effect. Repeated calling doesn't seem to work well either, and calls are more effective if they're closer to the election.

Direct mail is even less effective than phone banks, and it is the least effective with marginal voters. The partisan base can be motivated by direct mail, but even so, it is expensive.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was the price-per-vote summary. Canvassing costs approximately $19/vote, using contract labor. Obviously, free labor is cheaper, making volunteer canvassing the cheapest known way for a campaign to increase its vote tally. Leafleting may be a bit cheaper ($14/vote) to motivate a partisan base, but further study is needed to confirm that as fact.

Volunteer telephone banks cost about $35/vote, assuming that the volunteers are well-supervised and use a good script. Professional calls with long scripts and good supervision cost about $45/vote, but low-quality professional calls can cost upwards of $200/vote. Robo calls don't work, so cost per vote can't be calculated.

Direct mail costs $59/vote when addressed to base voters, but $200/vote when directed to sporatic voters. Email doesn't work (no surprise there).

What I take home from this study is that it isn't money alone that gets out the vote. Campaigns can spend a lot of money with little or no effect. To get out the vote effectively, campaigns must plan well in advance and have enough staff to coordinate expensive GOTV efforts.

With the "scientific" base of GOTV covered, the next GOTV post will examine how the campaigns in the 29th will turn out voters next month.

]]> GOTV Sun, 01 Oct 2006 17:55:19 +0000 Rottenchester 4087 at
Hillary's Robo-Call I just received a robo-call from Hilary Clinton.  The call included a statement about Democrats "taking back the House".  The call tried to collect three things:  whether I was willing to volunteer, whether I intended to vote, and my email address.  It sounds like the start of Hilary's promised GOTV campaign.

]]> GOTV Wed, 20 Sep 2006 23:57:17 +0000 Rottenchester 4074 at
Will the Unions GOTV? Today's Binghamton paper covers the role of unions in New York's close congressional elections.  The national AFL-CIO has a $40 million warchest, and they plan to spend some of it on races in New York's 20th and 24th districts.  The 29th would get union attention only if the race appears to be close. 

]]> GOTV Mon, 18 Sep 2006 11:41:54 +0000 Rottenchester 4068 at
Evidence of Democratic GOTV The state Democratic party has opened a temporary office in Penn Yan.  Normally, offices in little burgs like Penn Yan are only opened during presidential election years.   According to the story,

organizers felt it was important this year, particularly with high-profile Democratic candidates, such as Massa, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election bid and Eliot Spitzer's run for governor.

This is concrete evidence that the Democrats are serious about GOTV in the 29th this Fall.

]]> GOTV News Fri, 15 Sep 2006 18:12:33 +0000 Rottenchester 4064 at
Hillary to the Rescue Today's Wall Street Journal has some good news for Eric Massa. To prove that she can win in red states in 2008, Hillary Clinton is planning a big get-out-the-vote effort in the more Republican areas of the state, including the 29th. This article also acknowledges that the big leads that Spitzer and Clinton hold over their opponents might lead to some voter complacency.

The 29th is named as the "next best shot" for a Democratic pick-up after the open seat in NY-24.  Republicans are quoted as saying their polls show Kuhl and other incumbents running ahead of challengers.  Since that's a self-report of an internal poll, it can be viewed with the usual extreme skepticism.

]]> GOTV News Thu, 07 Sep 2006 11:58:51 +0000 Rottenchester 4052 at
Turnout Nuts and Bolts The Kuhl site has an extensive FAQ section, all of which concerns the details of voting in New York State.

It's impossible to overestimate the importance of this kind of information, especially when it comes to registration and absentee ballots.  In my experience with political campaigns, a surprising number of voters are unable to navigate the bureaucracy of voting and therefore don't vote.  This is especially true for senior citizens, who are often unable to travel to the polls, yet don't know the  mechanics of the absentee process.

In New York State, all voters must register at least 25 days before the election, and absentee ballots must be requested no earlier than 30 days, and no later than 7 days, before the election.  This means that the election really starts in October.

]]> GOTV Wed, 23 Aug 2006 00:39:01 +0000 Rottenchester 4027 at
First GOTV Call of '06 Enough of the speculation on get out the vote (GOTV) efforts in the 29th.  This afternoon, I received my first election-related call from the Monroe County Democratic Party:

Hello Mr & Mrs. ____________, This is ____________ calling on behalf of Eric Massa.  He's the Democratic candidate to replace Randy Kuhl.  We hope you have heard of Eric Massa.  If you haven't, he is a 24-year Navy veteran who is working to return integrity, service and accountabilty to Congress. For more information concerning Eric, you can go to his website or call his campaign headquarters, 672-5335.

This was on my answering machine, so I don't know if it was an awareness call or perhaps would have morphed into a fundraising call if I had answered it.  Nevertheless, its timing (~80 days before election) indicates that a serious GOTV effort might well be planned for the 29th.

]]> GOTV Wed, 16 Aug 2006 23:44:07 +0000 Rottenchester 4016 at
Turnout Barring a last-minute special election for Elmira dogcatcher, the Kuhl/Massa showdown is probably the tightest race in the 29th.  Hillary's opponent will be laughably weak, and it looks like Spitzer will win in a walk, so turnout for this off-year election will be driven solely by interest in the Congressional race.

The conventional wisdom is that high turnout favors Democrats, so this is probably bad news for Massa.  If Hillary or Spitzer were in a tight race, they'd pour some of their massive warchests into a get-out-the-vote effort.  As it stands, they can save their money for future campaigns.

The 29th has existed in its current form for two elections.  In 2002, turnout was 174,631.  In 2004, it was 270,215, a 55% increase.  2002 was probably the most "off" of off-years:  the only major statewide race was a blowout for Pataki.   So '02 is probably a low-water mark for turnout, representing the "solid core" of those who always vote.  Amo Houghton took home a staggering 73.1% of the vote that year.

As the race progresses, I'll talk more about the turnout plans for 29th candidates.  But it's never too soon to speculate about the  national strategies of both parties.

Kuhl will probably use the same "72 Hour" strategy used by the Republicans to deliver Ohio in 2004.  This Republican plan combines polling data, automated calls or emails, and personal visits to turn out the base.  Assuming he's in close touch with the national campaign apparatus (I'm guessing he's joined at the hip), Randy's job will be to provide  enough volunteers or paid workers to call and visit voters on election day. 

Unfortunately for Massa, the Democratic turnout effort is looking like a casualty of disillusioned deep pockets and an internecine squabble between the Deaniacs and the Clintonites.   For a party that can't reliably turnout the faithful, this seems like a bad time for the head of the Congressional Campaign Committee (Rahm Emmanuel) to stop speaking with the Party Chairman (Howard Dean).

Today, E.J. Dionne's column mentions a 40-most-contested district turnout program that Emmanual is financing.  Even if the 29th is on that list, Massa probably won't be able to rely on as much help from the national party as Kuhl.  He better start praying now for a sunny and warm November 7.

]]> Analysis GOTV Tue, 15 Aug 2006 21:00:00 +0000 Rottenchester 4014 at