The Democrats’ strong ground war – winning elections

Ground wars win elections

Election campaigns used to be split between ground wars and air wars. Then the debate turned to offline vs. online campaigning debate and the advent of the digital election.

Actually, the key to winning elections are, and stay, the same. Online, offline, digital or analog – these are just the how. The key to winning elections, the most basic element of winning elections – is the Ground War.

Of course, the messaging matters and so does the authenticity and likability of the messenger. Clients of mine know all about the other M’s of MessageCraft® that contribute to successful elections. One of these is the Machinery – the network of trained people on the ground who do the hard work of elections.

Obama had superior messaging (on several key criteria) and was arguably a better messenger. But the Democrats  had a high quality and comprehensive ground war with a network of trained volunteers all over the country who understood the “how” behind the three key parts of their job descriptions: – find, persuade and turn out voters.

So what are some of the key criteria for a good ground war? Why did Obama win and what did the Democrats do that was so good?

  1. They listened to people. Listening to people outscores talking to or at people every time.
  2. They were trained –  they understood their job and were taught the best way to do it.
  3. They covered the whole country – or at least more of it than the Republicans.
  4. They started early which gave them the time needed to do the job properly. (When is the best time to start canvassing and campaigning? Generally, the week after you get elected.)
  5.  They focused on high quality contact with voters rather than volume contact – asking more questions – getting more feedback, not just voting intentions.
  6.  All their work was captured on a daily basis in a database that could store verbatim comments and feedback. They knew their audience better.
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Hi Peter
Thank you again for your help in getting me through the Parliamentary Assessment Board and getting selected for a seat first time of asking. So many potential candidates have to tear around the country repeating that process before perhaps securing a winnable seat. I know that I would not have done anywhere near so well if it wasn’t for you.

Years ago I was told that like when taking medication, it was better to respond than to react. Building up an armoury of stories and responses helped me do just that, responding in a way that allowed me to answer the unasked questions as well rather than simply batting back the original question. The key lesson for me was to have succinct responses that go beyond simple platitudes.

The simple question “Why do you want to be an MP?” has started a process across my borough of ensuring that our local council candidates each have a positive vision to share rather than simply to beat the other guy. The former leads to the latter but follows a different, more productive path.

You certainly put me through my paces but by the time of the interviews I felt ready for pretty much anything.

….

I look forward to seeing you soon.
Paul

Paul Scully. Conservative PPC Sutton and Cheam