How Do You Measure the Ground Game?

At Daily Beast today, John Avlon and Michael Keller attempt to assess the quality of the two presidential campaigns’ GOTV “ground games,” but immediately run into different theories of how they should be measured.

Much of the piece focuses on the well-established and very large Obama advantage in the number of field offices in battleground states (with charts supplied!), including particularly large margins in Ohio (122 to 40), Iowa (66 to 13), Colorado (61 to 14) and Wisconsin (68 to 24). But then Team Mitt people are quoted as mocking this metric as insignificant:

“Democrats love to use that metric,” says a frontline GOP operative. “The Obama campaign is a byproduct of the president—big government. But we’re contacting more voters than ever—we just crossed 34 million voter contacts on phones and 6 million doors, blowing past the McCain totals in 2008. The Obama campaign isn’t releasing their numbers, which tells me they don’t have them. So there’s this fallacy that the Obama campaign has this great ground game, but we’re just not seeing it on the ground.”

But then there are also bountiful quotes from Republicans not involved directly in the campaign conceding that the GOP generally gets out-gunned on the ground, and suggesting that the Romney campaign, under media-centric chieftain Stu Stevens, probably hasn’t made any revolutionary advances this year.

So it pretty much comes down to who you believe. And all other things being equal, I’d sure want three-to-one advantages in the number of field offices.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.