| [The latest in my series to inject some substance into the campaign. Want to help the grassroots? This is an idea that would help small campaigns all over the state. If all my posts feel overwhelming...good! That's the idea! There are five more articles to go before Jan. 31]
If you've ever worked on a MassGOP state legislative campaign, (I have) then you know that early on, you watch the candidate try to decide some of the campaign strategy by looking at two kinds of data: previous election results in the district, and a list of Republican voters. You wish there was good polling data available that you could use, but it is very rare you'll have that, unless you are a big, wealthy campaign.
The hope is that you will figure out what kinds of candidates did well and where they did well. You will want to know where the turnout was strong. You will also want to see where the Republicans are, who voted, and how often. As for activists, you'll turn to your local RTC, and hope they can help you. (Chances are, they can't do much.)
In terms of campaign issues, most candidates start with strong opinions about only a few things, and some broad principles. There is usually a lot of room for adaptation - especially on local concerns. What else should the candidate run on? They probably aren't sure. (Perhaps an ethnic group has a political itch that no one has tried to scratch. How would you know about it?)
Here are some questions that candidates without a lot of money would love to know:
1. Of the registered Republicans in this district, what statewide and local issues are most important to them?
2. How many Republicans are willing to be involved in a campaign? Where are they? Would they prefer direct mail, phone calls, visits, or online outreach? Are they involved in their RTC? Some other political group? Are they tech-savvy? (i.e. can I just use online stuff or do they really need direct mail?)
3. How do unenrolled voters feel about the issues here? What would they like to see in a Republican candidate?
Yet, unless they are running somewhere that has fantastic RTCs (rare!), they won't know any of this, despite what a huge impact it might have on the success of a campaign.
To solve this problem and improve every small campaign in the state, I propose that we conduct a Census, once every few years. It will cover Republicans and unenrolled voters, though we will not ask them the same things. (Why the unenrolled? Because with only 11%, we need most of them to get to a majority in every race.)