The Democrats are counting on the strong ground operations that have been put together to help win in the swing states. But I just don’t know. I used to think that precinct operations are the key to winning. But I remember being confident that the huge volunteer army that Dean brought to Iowa would clinch it for him, and look what happened. It did not bring him victory and seemed almost irrelevant. So, like everything else in this election, I just don’t know.
But there were several other factors in Iowa that contributed to Dean’s defeat. Joe Trippi writes about Iowa in his book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. (I highly highly recommend this book!) I don’t have the book in front of me in my hotel room in Secaucus, NJ, home of MSNBC, so this is from memory – but Joe wrote that Gephardt’s attacks on Dean drove voters to Kerry and Edwards, and that the ground operation was not well-organized and needed more seasoned professionals.
And I have my own pet opinion about what happened to Dean in Iowa: message. However much the Dean campaign was tuned in to the Voice of the Grassroots, in the last weeks before Iowa they were not. Every person I was talking to in California, and every voice I was hearing on the web — and from what I am told every voter in Iowa — was concerned with “How do we beat Bush?” But Dean was not answering that question. I think the Dean campaign failed to understand that. They should have had a good, short, one-sentence answer to that question and he should have been repeating it over and over, no matter what question he was asked. He should have been repeating that answer until people were running away from him with their hands over their ears, and only then moved on to any other subject. Kerry sure was, and that is why Kerry won in Iowa. Kerry was a war hero, and Bush was not, and that was how he was going to win. But what do I know?
I was so happy that Dean had a strong ground operating in Iowa. But it didn’t win it for Dean, and some say it may have even hurt because the door-to-door operation annoyed the locals. The current swing-state ground operations ARE managed by seasoned pros and ARE well-organized.
Does TV and spin nullify hard work and direct contact? I just don’t know.