Ground game

By ADAM REILLY  |  October 20, 2006

Now go to DevalPatrick.com, and click on “Volunteer.” Here, you can download and disseminate Patrick videos, create a personalized fundraising Web page, and download and print Patrick pledge cards (return 500 and Patrick will cook you dinner). What’s more — by clicking on the “Community Tool,” providing your e-mail address, and promising to support Patrick in November — you’ll get access to an extensive campaign database. Among other things, this database lets users search to see whether people they know support Patrick, as well as download call sheets they can use to turn their homes into campaign phone banks. (According to campaign manager Walsh, 4100 people had signed up to use the Community Tool just prior to September’s Democratic primary.

In case anyone misses the underlying message, it’s explicitly spelled out at the top of the Community Tool homepage (http://community.devalpatrick.com): “This is your campaign. You can have a stake and voice in politics along with your friends, family, and neighbors. With our e-community system you have the power to make it happen.” The technology, in other words, is perfectly consistent with the let’s-do-this-together philosophy of campaigning and governing that Patrick has been pushing on the stump for the past year and a half.

It’s all very impressive, but even after Patrick’s bravura showing in the primary, and despite his sizable lead in the general-election polls, there’s an abiding skepticism about his strategy. Here’s the big objection: organization wins primaries (or so the saying goes), but media win general elections. “The primary showed pretty conclusively that they’ve built a grassroots organization that dwarfs anything we’ve seen in recent elections,” says one political observer. “And it makes sense to continue to build on that grassroots network, and to make that network feel important. At the same time, the conventional wisdom is simply that a primary campaign is a ground war and a general election is an air war — that a lot more people are going to show up to the polls anyway, so unless there’s a November 7 blizzard, the margin you get out of being more effective at getting your partisans to the polls than your opponent tends to be too small to make a big difference.”

Patrick is running TV ads, of course, and waging daily battle with the Healey campaign in the newspapers and on the airwaves. But grassroots mobilization still seems to be his campaign’s top priority. Near the end of his Boston Common speech, Patrick offered the following exhortation to his supporters: “Let me worry about the attacks and the slanders. You do what you need to do. Talk to your family and friends; talk to your neighbors and your co-workers about what’s at stake. Ask them to see this not as my campaign but ours, all of ours. Make a contribution of time or money; volunteer at a phone bank to identify voters who’ll support the cause, this week.

“Canvass your neighborhood with materials about the campaign,” Patrick continued. “Join one of the get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day. There are staff at the tables in the back, and with clipboards all around us, to show you how to get involved. We have 23 days left before the polls close on Election Day. It’s not a lot of time to change the course of our state. But that is what’s at stake.” Come November 7, we’ll see if Patrick’s grassroots support lives up to the hype.

On the Web
Adam Reilly's Talking Politics blog: http://www.thephoenix.com/talkingpolitics
Deval Patrick: http://www.devalpatrick.com/

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