Will the media tell the ground game story?

>> Friday, October 17, 2008

The under the radar story of the election as far as the traditional media outlets are concerned is the amazing effort and dedication of the obama ground game. It gets references in passing but because it is not sexy or flashy has largely been ignored. This absence of national level attention has not stopped the dedicated organizers and volunteers across the country who have worked tirelessly to elect either Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain. The Obama organization will be one of if not the best in history but because of the way the election is shaping up that story may not be

The story of the ground game is not one alien to dkos, fivethirtyeight, or The Field Readers. These sites have dedicated a great deal to reporting on the ground game and how it is shaping up as well as its possible effects. Sean Quinn at 538 has been traveling the country reporting town by town city by city on the different campaign's efforts in the battle ground states. The Field has done, imho, the best work on the ground game available in the blogosphere and Giordiono's recent post sums up why he finds it so important,

There are ten thousand potential newspaper, TV and radio news stories in those numbers, and at least as many "reporters" in need of a good report, but as during the primaries, the commercial media are leaving the real story of the 2008 United States presidential election to a few intrepid online journalists and bloggers. When on Election Night they will raise their eyebrows and go, wow, just wow, how the hell did that happen?, it will be the Field Hands here, and a very few folks like Sifrey, like Sean Quinn at 538 and Zack Exley at The Huffington Post who will have documented the answer: It was the organizing, stupid!
See, the story of the 2008 campaign is not some media creation and caricature like "Joe the Plumber," but those Americans that have done more than "win" the media lottery by having a chance encounter with a presidential candidate. (I put "win" in quotation marks because I have the feeling this isn't going to end well for that Joe, as media scrutiny can be a knife with two edges.) No, the story of 2008 is authentically about "Debrah the Neighborhood Team Leader" and "Glenna the Neighborhood Team Leader," and "Joe the Organizer," and "Jane the Change Crew Chief," and "Jose the Phone Banker" and "Jasmine the Canvasser." The story is that of so many Americans that didn't wait for the media to show up at their doorsteps but stepped out onto the battlefield and did the heavy lifting.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

He is absolutely correct on just about everything in there. What i think he misses is that the media will not wonder at how obama won the election. The media will look at the polls, look at the timing of some national level events and write a narrative that fits. I already wrote one that is perfectly plausible and does not rely on the hard work of the ground game.

The problem with this election is that the way it is shaping up it could be a very big win for obama. In that scenario the media will not look to the dirty and gritty work done by those on the ground. they will not give the ground game the credit it deserves for registering and turning out voters because they will make the assumption that the extra effort made no difference due to national level events. They play no part in the ground game and so it cant be important. They will simply attribute the overwhelmingly positive response for obama as the natural outgrowth of the democratic enthusiasm without making the connection that this energy means nothing without proper harnessing.

If Debrah the Neighborhood Team Leader" and "Glenna the Neighborhood Team Leader," and "Joe the Organizer," and "Jane the Change Crew Chief," and "Jose the Phone Banker" and "Jasmine the Canvasser" do not get the recognition they deserve on a national level then true difference between Obama and McCain will not be understood. Obama was able to translate excitement into work while mccain and palin were able to generate this in Columbus Ohio,

McCain Ohio Headquarters - BrettMarty.com
(picture by Brett Marty of BrettMarty.com)

Described by 538,

It's fair enough. We're not their biggest priority. They probably assume if they haven't heard of us, how much exposure could photos of their huge phone banks with 40 phones and one lonely caller at their state headquarters three weeks before the election really get?

As for the field offices themselves, we told you about the closed one in Troy. We were ushered out by rent-a-cops in Toledo (the second time I spoke with Levine), and there was a pencil-thin mustachioed rent-a-cop in the HQ where we got that picture.

We'll keep trying in good faith to speak to communications directors and stop into field offices, and if they're fair with us, we'll be fair with them. The problem the McCain folks have is that their offices are empty, and why would you want reporters to do a story on that, or on obviously manufactured volunteer conversations? So, we're not optimistic, but we're not quitting. They'll have to say it to our face.

One lone volunteer and 39 unused phones. That might be one of the saddest images of the campaign and it tells the story in a way words just fail to convey. It makes me feel sad for that lone volunteer, who although i disagree with her vehemently in her choice of candidates, earns my respect for sitting there all alone to make calls.

Getting people to the polls, making phone calls, getting people registered, canvassing neighborhoods, these are essential elements of campaigns that the media overlooks unless the race comes down to a few hundred votes in one state. There is reason to take heart though.

We can push this narrative. Whenever someone talks about the election and mentions the poll numbers or media coverage you should talk about the ground game. when people talk about how mccain lost it the election instead of obama winning it talk about the differences in organization and hard ground level work. the more we push the importance of the ground game in obama's victory as opposed to debates or katie curic interviews the more traction it can get.

Pat Buchanan loves to go on tv and talk about the economic disaster like it is a black swan event and but for that McCain would be right in this thing. This is simply untrue. Obama has legions more volunteers dedicated to contacting voters and making calls, getting his message than mccain does. Reading Quinn's series only seems to prove that in excruciating detail. If there were legions of mccain volunteers dedicated to getting him elected they would not have been scared off by the economy. He still has 40%+ support generally among the populace after all. The truth is that the Obama ground game will have been key no matter the outcome. The ground game can be the difference between squeaking by and a solid progressive mandate.

The story of the Obama ground game is important because, while its primary focus was on electing barack obama, the registration, canvassing and data entry it performed is invaluable to the down ticket dems. The organizing done by the obama campaign is not about just him but about the democratic party as a whole. he put infrastructure in solidly red states as an investment in the future. that's an important story. eliminating the excuses of the congress members who refuse to advance liberal or progressive legislation under threat of filibuster or defection may disappear because of the hard work done on the ground.

I expect all of this to be lost on the media at a large. Whether it is or not you can carry the story about the power and importance of the obama ground game to your community. let people know that their efforts on behalf of obama where essential. That the media is oblivious to this says more about them than the people who spend time on the ground doing this organizing.


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