Better Targeting?!?!?

Patrick Ruffini riffs on Zack Exley’s description of the Obama ground game, rightly worrying that Obama is "whipping" McCain’s "ass" (McCain’s words, not Ruffini’s).

In many ways, this is like the pyramid volunteer structure often attributed to Bush-Cheney ’04, in which a meritocratic leadership structure was built outside local Republican Parties. Except that this is happening lower down in the food chain, at the level of the individual volunteer in a precinct. Obama volunteers are expected to do more than volunteers on other campaigns, which is basically to park your butt in a headquarters and make lots of phone calls.

And the McCain campaign? They’re relying on better targeting (this is useful, but you also sense it’s a way to explain away a smaller operation). And lots and lots and lots of phones. From the Chicago Tribune‘s writeup of GOTV in NoVA:

"We know who we need to talk to," said Trey Walker, McCain’s campaign manager for Virginia and nearby states. "We know how to talk to them, and we know we can do it in a more cost-effective manner on the phone than by deploying teams of college kids out into the suburbs like the Obama campaign."

Huh? Since when are phones more effective than door knocks? Virtually every study I have seen on this finds that a volunteer going door to door is more effective than a volunteer phone call, which is in turn more effective than paid knocks / calls.

While I agree with his comment about door knocks being better than phone calls, I have big problems with his crediting of the McCain claim that they’ve got better targeting.

At a basic level, that claim is based on the tried-and-true microtargeting the Republicans have used, compared to the new Democratic Catalist database. The latter is new and untested, so we won’t know whether–as Harold Ickes claims about his work–it’s actually better than the Republican version until after the election.

But I’m writing this from MI, which was, until ten days ago, a swing state. And from my perspective, the McCain team’s targeting is piss poor. I live in one of the most Democratic precincts in the state outside of Detroit. Yet I’ve gotten a fair amount of direct mail from McCain and some robocalls. Just last week, I got this mail piece, designed to convince me Palin is a nice moderate mommy who will bring peace and joy to the McCain campaign. It was a badly targeted piece in any case, but more so because I got it in the same week when the McCain team unleashed Palin to lead lynch mobs chanting racist and violent chants. It was so absurd getting that, at this point, that I’ve set it aside to keep as a political oddity. 

Meanwhile, everything Obama has sent me has been online–everything. (He’s got more ads on my teevee, but McCain had more on the teevee here in MI in August). 

In other words, whatever they’re doing on targeting, the McCain campaign is still sending fancy mailers to me, whereas the Obama campaign’s touches have all been emails for which the marginal cost is almost nothing.

Obama’s spending big on teevee and offices because he has raised more–a new record in September, according to reports. But he’s also spending more on those things because he’s wasting less money talking to a solidly decided voter like me.  

  1. AlbertFall says:

    This is all about Rove, and ultimately, the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Republican party.

    Rove used White House political office resources (and undoubtedly funding) after his alleged “departure” from the White House last year to create a precinct by precinct map of the United States. I know this from a relative who was part of the work.

    Republicans were playing the same game of political checkers this year using the same old playbook–suppress the vote, motivate the elements of a disparate and disjointed Repulican base (corpratists, evangelicals, authoritarian followers), smear opponent.

    Obama and the Democrats under Dean started playing chess–build up the Democractic base, don’t run from the Democratic message, run an articulate candidate who fought back against Republican smears.

    Obviously, the war and the economy and the general evil and incompetence of the past 8 years gave the Dems a lot to work with, too, generating conditions that would permit the changed game to work.

    Digby has a great post from the weekend about how Rove is an example of the inability of Americans to distinguish cheating from achievement–the win at any cost culture that undermines American values.

    The Republican scorched campaigning led to Bush’s scorched earth governing. Hopefully that tide has gone out.

    • Leen says:

      On Sunday’s Chris Matthews show David Ignatius said that if McCain continues on the path that he is on he has a chance of “losing his soul”. When Ignatius said this Matthews and all went dead silent.

      the Ignatius comment came at the end of the show

      • Leen says:

        Here is the comment and transcript from Sunday’s Chris Matthews show. The panel was addressing the McCain campaign’s efforts to inflame the situation.


        “Mr. IGNATIUS: I think if McCain uses these very nasty character references,
        he risks losing his soul. This is what he said he wouldn’t do in this

        MATTHEWS: Wow. Thanks to a great roundtable: Gloria Borger, Howard Fineman,
        Cynthia Tucker and David Ignatius.”

  2. JimWhite says:

    And check out this post at fivethrityeight. Scroll to the bottom for a photo of a couple of nice little old ladies trying to get into a locked, empty McCain county HQ in Ohio to volunteer. Didn’t target them with useful info on how to help, huh?

  3. DeadLast says:

    At a basic level, that claim is based on the tried-and-true microtargeting the Republicans have used…

    And therein lies the problem. 100% of the spoils of government for 50.1% of the society. (Actually, there are only 20% or so that see any benefit, the others seem happy just to think they may be invited to have a beer with the President one day.)

    We need a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Where have I heard that before?…………

  4. josandpol says:

    I am a corporate executive who have taken the Kouzes & Posner Leadership Practices training years ago. I recently used the K & P codes to compare Obama and McCain. The former beats the latter handily in all leadership practices:

    1. Challenging the process – leaders thrive on and learn from adversity and difficult situations. They are risk takers who regard failure as a useful chance to learn and innovate. They are also early adopters of innovation. They seek out things that appear to work and then insist that they are improved. They challenge 24/7!

    Obama challenged the process, not just by being colored (in itself is already big challenge) but also in the way he funded his campaign using contributions from the grassroots that broadened his support base. Both candidates used the internet, but Obama’s website had more personal messages while McCain’s website posted mostly press releases which you can also read in the newspapers.

    2. Inspiring a shared vision – people are motivated most not by fear or reward, but by ideas that capture their imagination. This is not so much about having a vision, but communicating it effectively so that others take it on board. Great leaders are future orientated and seek to energise others by passion, enthusiasm and emotion. They want to bring people on board with this sense of shared purpose.

    Obama’s shared vision was about CHANGE and painted McCain as an extension of Bush (McSame). McCain unsuccessfully tried to hijack the CHANGE vision by presenting himself as a maverick but the Democrats were able to paint McCain as a (Bush) sidekick, not a maverick.

    McCain is using fear to discredit Obama (Muslim, association with terrorists, novice to foreign policy, etc). McCain has no vision to inspire; he is just using the fear of the unknown. This recession, associated to the inept fiscal policy of Bush, is working to Obama’s advantage (again, the CHANGE vision).

    3. Enabling others to act – leaders don’t seek to achieve it all themselves – they achieve results through others. People must feel able to act and then must be supported to put their ideas into action. Collaboration and relationship-based work is central to success. As a leader you will need to:
    • Foster collaboration by promoting co-operative goals and building trust
    • Strengthen others by sharing information and power and by increasing their discretion and visibility

    Both Obama and McCain, being politicians, should have scored evenly here. Surprisingly, McCain shot himself in the foot by picking Sarah Palin who Salman Rushdie described as ‘a joke’

    With the blunders Palin committed during press interviews, her dismal performance in her debate with Biden, the findings on her abuse of power and her overall incompetence to be a VP and a heart beat away from the Presidency, the GOP are forced to quarantine her from doing more damage.
    Team Obama, on the other hand, is all revved up, from Biden, the Clintons, and the entire Obama campaign team.

    4. Modelling the way – means being prepared to go first, living the behaviors you want others to adopt before asking them to adopt them. People will believe not what they hear leaders say, but what they see their leaders consistently do. Great leaders should serve as an example to others.

    Again, the choice of Sarah Palin (abuse of power) points to poor judgment on McCain. His image of wealth (it was reported McCain did not know how many houses he owns), while this should not be taken against him, is unfortunately cannon fodder during this recessionary times when people are losing their jobs, homes, etc. That McCain is associated with Bush who is himself associated with oil interests and oil prices that surged gives the perception that McCain does not model the way.

    Obama voted against the Iraq war (now another unpopular issue). He belongs to a racial minority perceived to have gone through poverty (not entirely true for Obama) and through hard work had achieved the American dream. Obama appears “more true to his values” and therefore is more perceived to be modelling the way.

    5. Encouraging the heart – people act best of all when they are passionate about what they’re doing. Leaders unleash the enthusiasm of their followers with stories and passions of their own. They enjoy celebrating successes – even small ones – and will tend to tackle difficult projects through recognizing others’ contributions. They:
    Recognize individual contributions to the success of every project
    Celebrate team accomplishments regularly

    Team Obama had been on a winning streak since the Democrats candidates search. They have been encouraging each others’ hearts.

    McCain’s team is under pressure to rally. After two debates where the polls showed Obama winning and again due to the Palin factor, I would hazard a guess that there is much latent blame assigning today within Team McCain.

    Whether or not Obama is the true leader as he presents himself to be is beside the point. Perception is reality and right now, Obama is the better leader as perceived.

    My personal take in choosing Obama is very simple. The eight years of George W. Bush was a complete disaster. I believe that McCain will continue his policies. The probability of change is zero under a McCain presidency.

    There is no certainty that Obama will do better, but if he does what he promises to do based on his campaign platform, the probability is much higher than zero that things will improve dramatically.

    Insanity is defined as repetitively doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I must be insane if I pick McCain. I don’t think I an insane. Unfortunately, my vote does not count because I am not a US citizen.

    Hopefully, the American voters are not insane too and will vote for Obama.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    Unscientific survey: I’ve received 7.2lbs of political mail since the conventions. 5.4 LBS are in general republican, .7 LBS local issues, 1.1 in general democrat.

    In the GOP stack, there are a LOT more 527 mailings than in the Dem stack. In fact, I can’t identify a 527 mailing in the Dem stack.

    The GOP stack inculdes some anti-Islam DVDs, which increase the weight. The Dems have sent me no dvd’s, cheapskate SOBs!

    McBush is currently getting a lot more airtime on the shows I watch. It’s got to the point I can’t even watch local news.

    Targeting? Only in the sense that a shotgun is “aimed” at a flock of birds.

    Boxturtle (Expects all those weights to rise, it’s gotten BAD since he surrendered Michigan)

    • Peterr says:

      While the GOP has to pay to send out DVDs, Dems are having a blast with YouTube.

      Beyond the official stuff sent out electronically by Obama, there’s all the stuff that ordinary folks pass around to each other. When people put a link to a snarky YouTube up on their own blogs, or pass links via email to friends, that ends up being a much better kind of “micro-targetting” than hitting the right zipcode with a mailer.

  6. radiofreewill says:

    josandpol at 6 – Excellent!

    Imho, Worthy of an Oxdown!

    (see the ”Write a Diary” button)

    We need a National Discussion to Clarify:

    Blind Loyalty is No Substitute for Ethical Character

    It’s the Core Flaw with the Bush/McCain/Palin model of ’leadership.’

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      Concur, worthy of Oxdown.
      Besides the leadership vacuum, McCain fails Hemingway’s code of
      “He was an old man who politicked erratically in his Straightalk Express
      throughout the bowels of America, and he has gone ninety days now without
      making any sense.”

  7. skdadl says:

    I’ve just been reading (over at TPM) McCain’s prepared remarks for today, wherein his big climax is “We’ve got them just where we want them.”

    lol. I mean, how very Monty Python. Reminds me of “It’s just a flesh wound.” I also thought of General Custer and similar figures, but TPM tells me that Instaputz was already there.

  8. JClausen says:

    i cannot believe McInsane is wasting resources on me, an Iowa Democratic Precinct Chairman. All e-mails from Obama, all mailers from McInsane as well as robocalls that I hang up on almost immediately.

    I hope my experience reflects the general incompetance of Mc Insanes campaign. Why Iowa, Why me. Why now after your ass is getting kicked the more you appear?

      • freepatriot says:

        Aside from the fact that McCain has to know I voted in the Dem primary, he’s also got to know I’m a Precinct Delegate.

        has he ever heard of scooter libby ???

        maybe it’s just me …

  9. josandpol says:

    Thanks radio freewill and BayStateLibrul for your kind words. I followed your suggestions and just wrote a diary in Oxdown. This is actually my first posting here and hopefully not the last.

    I trust that the US voters will choose wisely in November.

  10. josandpol says:

    Thank you Peterr and emptywheel for your warm welcome. I am about to have breakfast, it is now 8:30am in my country.

    It’s truly a small world. DOW had a huge technical bounce last night, our stock market here is expected to follow suit and should rally strongly today. We are keenly monitoring the US presidential campaign and how Americans will extricate themselves from the mess they’re in.

    America is still the biggest economy in the world. The oft-repeated cliche’ is that when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. My own verssion is that when the US farts, the rest of the world suffocates LOL!

    Ironically, and I say this without intent to appear superior, the average non-American has a wider view of the world than the average American. Whoever becomes the US president next month will have the power to influence world events.

    I trust that the US voters will keep this insight in mind when they vote. It’s truly a small world. Will keep in touch.