This long, painful and yet still significant political season has begun to throw off accounts of developing campaign tactics that should be of great interest to anyone who cares about political mechanics.
First up, Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, writing at Bloomberg Politics. He points out that the Clinton campaign is using a different organizational structure than past presidential field campaigns, grouping target states not by geography, but by similar demographics and similar campaign challenges. In particular, they seem to be throwing resources at one of the hardest problems in contemporary electoral tactics: how to "get out the vote" when increasing numbers of ballots are cast before Election Day.
Making sure you are targeting your turnout resources on people who you want to vote who have not yet voted is a data heavy enterprise. It does no good to be door knocking and calling people who have already voted; you have to reach out to the right targets. This sort of painstaking work can add a point or two to the candidate's total, but organizing to make it happen involves the choice to invest people power and expense in getting it done over a period of several months. Apparently the Clinton campaign is doing just that.
Issenberg further discussed the campaign tactics he observes this year with Jim Tankersley at the Washington Post. He's very complimentary about the Clinton effort:
For a guy whose expertise is in modern data intensive campaigning, he's quite interesting about what Trump's campaign is up to. Senior Republicans complain that the real estate mogul is hurting the party by not developing a field operation that would enhance their voter data through its contacts. Party voter files are cumulative edifices, each campaign incrementally increasing the quality of what the file shows about supporters. Trump is doing none of this.
Issenberg doesn't think Trump's vision of a campaign can succeed, but it is interesting to see the yellow-headed blowhard credited with coherence.
Meanwhile, Brian Beutler at the New Republic has published excerpts from an interview with Becky Bond who was part of the team managing Bernie Sander's field campaign in the primary. She describes what you can do with contemporary technology in the seldom experienced situation in which legions of volunteers take the project into their own hands.
It takes a lot of very committed, inspired people to make this work -- and the Bernie campaign's results suggest it works best in smaller settings in caucus states where a devoted core can have a maximum impact. Time will tell what can be transferred to more humdrum, but essential, campaigns to elect merely "good enough" candidates to local, state and Congressional office. That's what it is going to take if the Bernie eruption is to leave the mark it aims for.
The Beutler interview with Bond is derived from a fascinating attached podcast which is a much deeper dive into Bernie's field organizing.