What Should (and Can) We Change to Win?
In other years at about this time, the Republicans in SD49 have held our Fall Conversation. It has been our opportunity to talk about matters of importance to us as an organization and as a community. Unfortunately, that is not possible this year. Instead, we are sharing some thoughts with you in the hopes that you will give us your feedback and will volunteer to help us move forward.
Could We in SD49 Have Done More?
By Jim Bowen
If we like the results of this election, we just need to keep doing more of the same...I think the answer is "No! Let's change!"
We sent out, by email, our volunteers-needed message to 2,300 people that we believed were GOP supporters. We have about 180 delegates, alternates, precinct officers and executive committee members (our “activists”), yet we struggled to get 10 people together for 3 hours of door knocking.
Some people cannot door knock, but they may be able to phone call. The MNGOP, Trump, Qualls and Johnson campaigns all operated phone banks. Although we had a number of people who volunteered to phone, we lacked a volunteer to organize a phone bank for ballot questions as well as local legislative candidates.
Campaign contributions are an essential way to help, particularly local candidates. The Republican organizations and candidates in Minnesota raised far more than in recent election cycles because of our “battleground” status, but we were still out-raised and outspent by a wide margin.
If we in SD49 want to win, we need to up our effort. All activists and supporters should plan to spend 3-4 days door knocking or phone calling every fall in election years as well as make total contributions of at least $100 (if you are financially able) to local candidates.
The Trump and Qualls campaigns expressed no confidence in “lit dropping,” holding that it does not change voter behavior or deliver votes. Conversely, door knocking has proven effective in study after study. So, we developed a “stretch goal” plan to knock on the doors of “weak Republicans” and “Swing” voters in every SD49 precinct. To be successful, we needed 25-30 volunteers working for 2-3 hours per week for 8 weeks--from late August to late October. We sent out requests for help door knocking to several hundred volunteers and activists each week, published articles in the bi-weekly newsletter and made announcements wherever possible.
It seemed a perfect opportunity, with no competing with the normal fall college and youth Saturday sports activities. In reality, we only had an average of 12 volunteers per week. Where we had hoped to knock on about 6000 doors in SD49 that would result in a 2% increase in Republican votes, we were only able to knock on about 2300 doors.
Unique to this election year, a separate, dedicated crew took to the field in late October. They knocked on additional doors with the primary aim of placing several hundred additional Qualls lawn signs. This effort likely increased name recognition for Kendall Qualls, but might have been more powerful if started earlier.
Our cadre of door knockers was extremely dedicated and hard working. Our hats are off to them! However, they were just too few to have the impact we hoped. In comparing 5 precincts that we door knocked with 4 precincts we didn’t, we see a 2- 2.5% positive impact. We had hoped to have enough volunteers see that level of increase across SD49, not just in the 50% of precincts we were able to impact.
Candidate Name Recognition and Community Credibility
In recent elections, we’ve seen local partisan candidates (MN Senate and House) lose because they lacked the name recognition and the community credibility enjoyed by incumbents. Even when our candidates are competing for open seats, we still fall short. Very often, GOP candidates have responded to our urgent requests and made the tremendous commitment to run. However, stepping into the arena right before the candidate filing deadline in early June does not leave time to attend community events, research the opposition, understand the issues, raise money, and develop a robust campaign plan.
Candidates achieve greater success when they come up through the “farm teams”, i.e., school boards, commissions and city councils. These provide name recognition, issue familiarity, community support, and key endorsements. We try to substitute with robust campaign strategies (yard signs, social media and paid advertising/mailers). However, the number of DFL volunteers, campaign contributions and community support developed from time on their farm teams is extremely hard to overcome.
Bottom line: We need candidates who are thinking several years ahead, not several weeks ahead, and are willing to “come up through the ranks” if we want to change the dynamics.
Other Factors – Communicating Republican Solutions to SD49 Voters
- The top of the ticket did not propel the vote for the rest of the field. Pres Trump got the fewest votes of any GOP candidate in all but 4 of the 32 precincts.
- Demographics are changing in the suburbs, with younger, more liberal voters who are more diversified racially, ethnically, politically, and religiously.
- Lack of detailed Republican plans/answers for dealing with health care, climate change and sustainability challenges
- The sense that the “protect our liberties” response to Covid-19 mandates and shutdowns was not a response to the pandemic that appealed to a majority of voters
- Inability of Republican candidates to nuance our conservative party image to show that we are a party that cares about people, that has positive answers that are better than those offered by the DFL.
Summing it all up – Our SD49 Republicans organization exists to win elections. How do we change our philosophy, operation and outlook to do that? Please contact us with your suggestions and offers of help.