MA Dem Party Chair John Walsh is always funny, always fun and scary smart. He joined us today at Left Ahead to talk strategy and prospects for the 2012 elections, but he won’t ever forget early 2010.
He led the commonwealth Dems to sweeping victory in November 2012 while the rest of the nation was awash in GOP fervor. In no small part, that was because he learned from the special-election loss at the start of the year that saw Republican Scott Brown edge Dem Martha Coakley for the US Senate seat. He continues to build on the lessons he learned after that, including conversations with Dem activists and pols.
Chief among those are:
- start early
- put resources in the hands of the locals and listen to their judgment
For the first, he knows that it would be disastrous for some party official in Boston to show up five weeks before the election with a new, improved plan for campaigning. Instead, the found that it is at the precinct and ward level where the organizers understand the patterns and trends locally. Communication needs to be both ways bottom to top and top to bottom.
I started with my own recurring atonement as illustrated with the attached organizer pad for the 2010 campaign to re-elect Gov. Deval Partrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. When Walsh made it plain that the party strategy centered on activists playing the role of organizers for people they knew, I had no doubt that was a losing plan. As I freely admit, it was instead a winning plan, one that was the foundation for Walsh’s current strategy. While the nation wallowed in red, MA was astonishingly blue, losing only a couple of state representative seats in the reactionary tide. I keep this pad handy to remind me of my pundit fallibility.
Click below to hear John speak of the refined version of keeping and improving on his party’s position. Dems are spreading the word through training and data on possible non-voting party members and party leaners who have not voted in the past two or three Presidentials. Through these vote-builder accounts, local activists can ID those and get them to the polls.
Walsh noted that the difference in that painful special-election defeat was about 50 votes per precinct (”It seemed like much worse,” he told us). Depending on the election (POTUS or not), there can be between 300,000 and 600,000 Dems or leaning Dems among non-voters. For many of those, voting is on their list, but not as high as “brushing teeth and pushing amrs in sweaters” in the case of those with kids. Some are young voters not in the habit yet and others are older voters recently infirm. He sees some of these are candidates for absentee voting.
Others don’t understand the big and small issues in the current contests. In these latter cases, Walsh notes, “When we have voters who don’t get it, it’s our fault.” That’s where he concentrates his work — getting out the vote and making sure Dems know the importance of the issues.
Walsh added that “as much as it pains me to say it,” about 1.1 million MA residents voted for Sarah Palin, largely GOP and unenrolled ones. While 1.9 million smeared the ovals for Joe Biden, the difference per election for Dems is getting them to the polls. Listen in as he describes how the party uses the online voter lists and has gotten 300 town committees trained so far in face-to-face work with those who have not been voting.
For this November, he is well aware that following the Citizens United decision, a disheartening amount of winger ads and other expenditures will target both President Obama and the MA Dem candidate for US Senate. He’s a firm believer that “the only thing that can beat big money” is face-to-face contact, real citizens v. Citizens United. He said that money only “simulates the relationships.”
Beyond the election, he indulged us on the questions at least one US Senate candidate, Marisa DeFranco, raised earlier this month about the process of getting on the ballot. Listen in as he agrees that it can seem arduous to get 10,000 signatures, the 15% of party delegates (around 750) at the June convention to get on the primary ballot. He has the luxury of inheriting the state law and party rules, but added that he’s open to refinements.
This go in November, Walsh is working toward getting an additional 20% to 30% more Dems and leaning Dems to the polls.
Cross-post note: This will appear also at Left Ahead.