Testing the efficacy of a ‘ground game’

Updated
 
Testing the efficacy of a 'ground game'
Testing the efficacy of a 'ground game'
Seth Masket

The New York Times had a piece over the weekend on President Obama’s focus on Colorado, where his campaign “has opened more than 50 field offices in Colorado, compared with about a dozen for his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.”

This larger strategy comes up quite a bit and it extends well beyond Colorado. For Democrats, there’s a broad realization that they’ll never be able to keep up with Republicans’ financial edge – there are simply too many conservative billionaires who intend to buy the election for Romney – but Dems hope to counter this with a superior “ground game.”

To that end, political scientist Seth Masket, who’s researched the use of field offices, has come up with some interesting observations and posted this chart over the weekend.

Masket relied on the Obama and Romney websites to “tally up the number of field offices in the 11 swing states.” You’ll notice that the Democrat has the advantage in every battleground state. (There’s probably a clerical error for Indiana – it’s implausible Romney wouldn’t have a single field office there.)

“I had figured earlier that these differences were a result of the fact that Obama just had an early head start while Romney was still slugging it out in the primaries, but by this late date, I’m not so sure,” Masket wrote. “It seems more like the campaigns have different philosophies when it comes to deploying campaign resources, with the Romney folks believing they can win in the air and the Obama folks believing this will be won on the ground.”

Right. I suppose it’s possible that Romney/Ryan will open dozens of new field offices in the race’s final nine weeks, but at this point, it seems pretty likely that Team Obama has simply placed a greater emphasis on this aspect of the campaign.

Does this kind of on-the-ground campaigning translate into votes? When Masket looked into this four years ago, he found a measurable impact (pdf), and in a close race, even small influences can make a difference.

I suspect the effect of television ads is still the most powerful weapon in a campaign’s arsenal, but it’s worth keeping in mind that just last week, the Washington Post reported that some Republican officials are “starting to fret a little bit” about the weakness of their ground game.

Testing the efficacy of a 'ground game'

Updated