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Campaign organizations steam ahead online

President Donald Trump is a frequent critic of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

But Trump’s reelection campaign doesn’t have a problem using some of the tactics used by the Obama campaign in the bid for four more years in the White House.

“Post 2012, we looked at what we (Republicans) did wrong and what the Obama campaign did right,” said Samantha Zager, regional communications director for the Trump campaign. “That led us to look at a more local, centric ground game, which is based on the book ‘Groundbreakers,’ which looked at the Obama ground game in the reelect. We decided that parachuting people in wasn’t the way to do it, using out of state to run these programs.”

The Trump campaign revved up early in New Mexico with events last year that included the president holding a rally in Rio Rancho and Vice President Mike Pence visiting Artesia.

“We really focused on making it local, neighbors talking to neighbors,” Zager said. They also focused on data gathering, and sharing that with state and local Republican campaigns. And they’ve been holding training sessions with volunteers.

But the COVID-19 outbreak has thrown campaigns, Republican and Democratic alike, a curveball.

“With the coronavirus, that changes the way that everyone’s campaigning,” Zager said. We had to take a look at what we were doing and how we can change that to make it all virtual, all digital and make that work for us. We were able to do that in about 24 hours … even Joe Biden took four days to set up a camera in his basement.”

Miranda van Dijk, communications director for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, also said her organization was able to make changes quickly.

“We got on it pretty early,” she said.

Volunteer meetings that were being held in communities are now being held on social media platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Instead of knocking on doors, volunteers from both parties are contacting their neighbors by phone.

“Our volunteers are phone banking and updating voter registration lists,” van Dijk said. “… We’ve still got to get delegates selected.”

“Your output kind of changes in what you’re looking to accomplish, canvassing numbers and everything like that, how many doors you knocked,” Zager said. “You’re looking at how many signups you had online and social media impressions and things like that.”

Both parties have places for virtual volunteering online. The state Democratic Party site has links about delegate selection workshops, virtual town halls, virtual volunteer meetings, phone banking and social media training basics.

The Trump campaign also has a place on its website that helps volunteers with taking the campaign virtual. It recently held both a national week of training and a national day of action, on March 21.

“On that day, we made 1.4 million voter contacts, including 25,000 in New Mexico,” Zager said. “Everything was 100% virtual. Everything was inside the workers’ home. It brought our voter contacts to 9 million in the cycle to date.”

The Democratic Party is also doing similar activities, Democratic National Committee spokesperson John Weber said.

He said the DNC is hosting online “Digital Organizing 101” trainings to share best practices with state parties and other groups on organizing supporters and volunteers online.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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