Ground Game: Is Joe Biden’s Campaign Committing Political Suicide?

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BY TYLER O’NEIL

Joe Biden and the Democratic Party may have seriously hobbled their election prospects in November by refusing to send out staff and volunteers to campaign door-to-door, building the essential “ground game” that helps win elections. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) claim to have volunteers and staff knocking on 1 million doors a week across America.

The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) claim that they are not committing political suicide but merely adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. They told Politico that they can compensate for the lack of in-person canvassing with phone calls, texts, digital organizing, and virtual meet-ups with voters.

“At first I was nervous, but our response rates on phone calls and texts are much higher and people are not necessarily wanting someone to go up to their door right now,” Jenn Ridder, Biden’s national states director, told Politico. “You get to throw a lot of the rule book out the window and try out new things.”

The Trump campaign appears to have taken the exact opposite approach. Trump Victory has required staffers to read “the book” on ground game, specifically Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America — a deep dive on the Obama campaign’s 2008 and 2012 door-to-door efforts.

Trump Victory doesn’t just have staffers reading up, however. The campaign has more than 1,500 full-time staffers and 1.8 million volunteers across 23 states.  The RNC told Politico it will add an additional 1,000 people by the end of September to focus on door-to-door canvassing and to get out the vote. The campaign and the RNC started deploying mask-wearing field staffers and volunteers in June and claim to be hitting 1 million doors every week. The campaign claims to have conducted more than 70 million volunteer voter contacts.

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