A recent study quoted on Vox, Daily Kos and other places
, alleges that traditional campaign practices during general election campaigns don't work any more.
Like everything else in life, there's at least two sides to this.
Joshua Kalla of the University of California and David Broockman of Stanford contend that traditional "retail" campaign practices such as door-to-door canvassing "have a net effect of zero".
In this Tower of Babel world we allowed cable to create, a lot of what they're saying is at least partially
right. But the truth in these times comes down to two adages--ironically, from different segments of American society: the sales saw "work smart, not hard"; and Wee Willie Keeler's admonition to young baseball players in the 1890s: "keep your eye on the ball and hit it where they ain't".
Kalla and Broockman are correct when they assert that traditional campaign strategy and tactics work better in primary elections.
It's Time to Fix Stupid learned several valuable lessons from the 2016 cycle. That year, we took out 50 percent more of our targets in the primary than in the general. Why did this happen? Give Fox News credit--Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes set out to nationalize politics
--and they succeeded. I've run into countless candidates from both parties who tell stories of going door-to-door and running into people who said they only watched Fox News and had no interest in state and local politics. This phenomenon more than any other is the reason primaries are now strategically more important than the general election--and the fact that 60 percent of our victories in Kansas and 54 percent overall came in the primary.
In the primary, we invested heavily in four races: Virgil Peck, Forrest Knox, Larry Powell and Ty Masterson.
In Peck's case, he was running for a vacant Senate seat, so we focused on the areas he'd never run in before--Labette and Neosho counties. Since Neosho County, which includes Chanute, was the farthest from Peck's home turf in Montgomery County, we started there first, then moved to Labette County, which was the home of Peck's primary opponent, who was from there.
The result was that Peck lost those counties by large enough margins that it offset the advantage he built in Montgomery County and narrowly lost.
We used the same strategy in targeting State Senator Forrest Knox. His district is a long, horizontal line stretching from El Dorado to Neodesha. Knox, who was running for a second term, lived at the east end of his district. His opponent--now the incumbent--lived in the most populous area at the other end of the district.
Even though the challenger had a numerical advantage in Butler County, we went with cable there to