Saturday, June 25, 2005

Putting Ohio to Bed

Now having read four (4) class readings concerning the miniature presidential campaigns in Ohio, which in the end decided the election for Bush, I wanted to conclude with a bulleted list of Bush's Ohio accomplishments (and Kerry's failings), as the selected authors see it:

1. The Mehlman/Rove machine used an Amway-style operation, creating volunteer pyramids that had timetables and color charts and goals. This tactic not only allowed Mehlman/Rove to be anal-retentive and indulge in weekly statistic updates, but it drove volunteers to success with incentives.

2. The Kerry campaign almost unknowingly relied too much on the legwork of outside sources, whether they be labor unions or voter-registration/mobilization organizations like Americans Coming Together. His campaign seemed to be driven by a desire to beat Bush, but as Verini attested, not by putting the troops on the ground ready to fight.

3. The Bushies were able to out-Democrat the Democrats. As Mehlman explained to Bai, the Democrats had reduced a 10-point Bush lead in Ohio in 2000 to a 4-point lead with their ground game alone. To wage a war with more than 50,000 volunteers in the state -- one for every 50 voters -- certainly kept the Ohio Democratic ground machine, which had seen better days, in check.

4. Bush built a team of believers. His incentives for volunteers to perform were effective because the volunteers wanted signed photos of the president. They believed in him and what he stood for, and most important of all, they fought for their side, not against the other's. Kerry's campaign seemed inspired by a dreamlike mentality, as Verini put it, "No one could imagine a Bush win. The prospect was unthinkable. How could America reelect him? It couldn't." Few were passionate about Kerry, which makes assembling a productive volunteer machine a bit difficult."

5. Bush engaged new technology not in a groundbreaking way, but in a ground-gaining way. No, this wasn't the Dean campaign, but Mehlman/Rove certainly did use some of Dean's Internet-plus-populism-equals-movement elements. Bush wasn't an Internet candidate; the Bush team was merely Internet-savvy. The end result: the kind of offline-online synergy that Dean only partly accomplished.

In the end, I still say that the lack of passion in the Kerry campaign was the killer. I'm not sure a Dean candidacy would have won the election, but I know Democrats wouldn't be sitting around bemoaning a lack of positive motivation or lambasting their lack of synergy that the Kerry campaign came to embody. All candidates aside, the Dean machine would have been a much more appropriate match for the Mehlman/Rove plan.


guayaquil said...

Exactly as you say, the lack of passion is what killed Kerry's campaign. I was not in the United States to have a broader view of what was happening with the races, but from press articles and readings i have learned that Kerry's campaign had serious problems.
His volunteers where not really focus on their work. They wanted Bush to lose, but the did not believe in Kerry as the ideal candidate for the presidency. It was like Kerry's volunteers and campaign staff where voting for the less of the two evils, and that is sad.

Steve said...

In addition to being the primary author of one of your class readings, I also wrote 2 other research papers on the techniques employed in Ohio. My conclusion: the Democrats achieved their goals in Ohio, but their management wasn't savvy enough to realize that their goals weren't sufficient to win. Had they adapted better they would have had a better chance. Rove won Ohio because he had a more effective management team and plan.

The rest of the story in Ohio is just filling in the blanks about which techniques worked better for the Republicans and why.

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