Let’s look at the Daily Kos post I linked to below a bit more. One thing I know from a decade of experience in political campaigns is that a voter list from the state party is the worst list you can get. Granted, my experience is limited to Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, but I have heard this from consultants all over.
So, if Dean has put together a field operation independent of the party, and he probably has if for nothing more than suspicion of the Iowa Democrat establishment, he probably has a more accurate list. If he has a more accurate list, he has been able to target better than the state party.
I ran a campaign a while back where my candidate’s campaign went out to evangelical churches and started registering congregants. We got church directories and targetted those who lived in the district. We weeded them down and had several thousand registered voters for a tight primary.
The other side had a state party list. We used a party registration list, but we got it from an independent company that, in the free marketplace, had an interest in producing very accurate data.
My guy came from behind and made it into a run off with a state representative. To make it more interesting, my guy lived outside the district by 20 miles and lived outside the heart of the district — where both of his primary oppoents lived — by 100+ miles.
We ultimately lost in the runoff because (1) we ran out of money and (2) the opponent beat the hell out of us with party voters once he got a list from the same independent company. But, we managed to compile an independent list of evangelicals who went out and voted. That list, unknown to anyone else, sustained us to the runoff.
Dean has done the same thing with the disaffected and unknown first timers. If he can sustain the effort and “keep the faith” with this group, he could lose Iowa and continue on with a base. But, I think he will probably benefit from a list of people who the other opponents can’t very well target to change minds.
This is a Dean advantage that polls and pundits can’t very well measure. But, we’ll know whether or not it works tonight.
Two lessons from this:
1. Do real grassroots and build your own list independent of the party list. Only supplement with the party list and weed out duplicates. An independent list company usually provides better data.
2. If you make it to a runoff, the first person to start firing will win. In fact, in the race above, the runoff opponent immediately sent out a mail piece with big bold letters, “Why Is My Opponent Attacking Me?” It included a picture of him, with wife and kids and grandkids climbing on him. We had not yet attacked him. It won him the election.