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Throughout this campaign cycle, the differences between the Republican and Democratic parties and candidates in the Lone Star State have been front and center. Yesterday we got confirmation of something many Democratic volunteers and staffers have suspected for years: when it comes to ground game, Texas Republicans quite literally have no idea what they’re doing – or what they’re talking about.
Enter Sarah Rumpf, a columnist for Breitbart. Running with a hot tip from the internet, Rumpf proceeded to highlight the shocking news: In September in an election season, both the Travis County Democratic Party and the Wendy Davis campaign are hiring paid canvassers. Not only that, but they’re offering to pay their canvassers almost twice the minimum wage: $14 an hour.
I have personally wondered from time to time if Texas Republicans would recognize effective grassroots organizing if it hit them in the face, but now we have the definitive answer: nope! As Rumpf reported: “Sources within the Abbott campaign confirmed to Breitbart Texas that they are not paying for door-to-door canvassers and have no plans to change that, relying on volunteers who are coordinated by full-time field staffers.” You read that right folks, the statewide Republican campaign has no paid canvassers, and no intention of hiring them. Instead, they’re relying on straight ticket voters – and volunteers.
Rumpf is right to point out the importance of volunteers. It was the strategic combination of enthusiastic volunteers and well-paid canvassers that seems to have eluded her. As a matter of fact, Team Wendy’s volunteers were out just last weekend, and their results are pretty impressive:
What Rumpf failed to include in her analysis of the canvassing ad is this: Team Wendy is organizing thousands of volunteers, knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors, and – lest you forget – registering thousands of Texans to vote:
While it’s great that Republican supporters have the luxury to campaign for free, and that Republican campaigns have grown so accustomed to this they see paid canvassers as a sign of weakness, Democratic campaigns have long been proud job makers for their supporters across the state.
Allie McCleary is a great example. As an artist in her twenties, McCleary’s financial situation kept her from being as involved in the campaign as she wanted to be – until she found an opportunity to work for the Travis County Democratic Party. McCleary explained, “I do not have the financial resources and/or time to be a consistent volunteer, which is why I am grateful to be a part of the paid staff with the Travis County Democrats. It has allowed me to be involved in such a capacity that I can be there five days a week.”
For paid canvassers like McCleary, it isn’t all about the money. It’s about being able to make a living doing something that matters. “If money were not a concern and I had limitless free time, you can be certain you would still find me at the campaign headquarters or reaching out to voters,” McCleary continued, “because I value civic engagement and find it crucial that we elect a strong, truly representative leader like Wendy Davis.”
Not everyone at the Travis County Democratic Party is a paid canvasser. Just like Battleground, the TCDP uses a strategic combination of volunteers and paid canvassers to talk to as many voters as possible. “There are people who are able and eager to donate their time day after day. If you take a step inside the campaign headquarters you will see this impressive, well oiled machine of collective effort,” McCleary said. “We are working right alongside the folks from Battleground, Wendy Davis for Governor, etc., as well as volunteers involved in every facet of the campaign. This, to me, is what a strong campaign looks like.”
McClearly is spot on. Voter contact is the single most important tool the Democratic campaigns have going into this election. For us, it isn’t just about turning out the same voters we see every year. It’s about engaging the Texans who have been left out of the conversation, who feel like they can’t make a difference, and convincing them that their vote matters. Democrats are hitting the ground with everything we’ve got – and that means putting our money where our values are – at the doors, talking to voters face to face.
The Texas GOP is so far removed from this concept they are unable to recognize a final push for paid canvassers for what it is: a normal piece of a strategically focused field program. This election cycle, Texas Republicans are acting like it is business as usual, while the Democrats have completely flipped the script. As Battleground likes to say: Game on.