Whatever else you may think of this effort, I find it fascinating.
Those campaign block-walkers have eagle eyes and sharp ears. Got an Aggie flag in your yard or a Jesus fish stuck on your car? Duly noted. Mention that your son is in the Navy? Got it.
Such are the snippets of data that Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has gleaned as his campaign has labored for months to target existing and potential supporters. They’re working house by house across the 22nd Congressional District in advance of Tuesday’s four-way GOP primary.
The nuts-and-bolts information gathered during those house calls â€” whether constituents back DeLay, if they want a yard sign or bumper sticker, and if they’d like to get more information from the campaign â€” is gold to the DeLay team.
For DeLay, a 22-year incumbent who is fighting for another term, the intelligence is critical to his goal of wringing as large a margin as he can out of a primary contest that may wind up being closer than he would prefer.
The responses are entered into a growing database of GOP voters that the campaign uses to tailor its mailings, phone calls and other outreach, and to profile tens of thousands of voters across the district’s four counties.
The technology is now trickling down to statewide races, such as for governor or U.S. Senate. DeLay is likely one of the few House contenders operating at this fine-tuned level, said Michael McDonald, an assistant professor of government at George Mason University.
Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson said “it takes a lot of money, so it’s only going to be in signature races where you have millions of dollars to get on television and do all the detail stuff from yard signs to mailers that go to targeted places in your district.”
The DeLay team has sent out eight pieces of direct mail that have generated hundreds of mailed-back forms filled with information for the database.
The campaign also develops lists of supporters by using results of prior elections to find precincts with high concentrations of Republican voters.
Campaign workers and volunteers have walked the blocks in those neighborhoods and knocked on doors to identify DeLay supporters, [campaign manager Chris] Homan said.
“We can slice and dice names on a block-by-block basis to see how many people will volunteer,” he said, noting that about 1,500 people are now signed up.
Some of this sounds not all that different from old-fashioned methods. Having the right tools – software and enough people power, in particular – makes the difference. There were no revelations to DeLayVsWorld.
One thing to note: the tone in this article that the primary is not a slamdunk for DeLay. I’ll say it again: At what level of support do you have to say that DeLay isn’t even that popular among his own supposed base? Maybe we’ll find out soon.