Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On the Campaign Trail

In 1984 I was the volunteer coordinator for the Mondale campaign in a congressional district in a small East Coast state.  For weeks before the election, I spent 15 hours a day in the campaign office, living off Dunkin Donuts, and going home only to drop into my bed for a few hours before getting up to do it again.  Surrounded by true believers--campaign staff and volunteers--I really thought Mondale was going to win.  I know, crazy, but there I was, working so hard, and there were so many of us working so hard, and it seemed inconceivable to me (at that young age) that our effort wouldn't pay off.

It was a different era, of course.  Sure, we had phone banks and GOTV and precinct captains and targeted precincts and drivers to get little old ladies to the polls.  But there was no internet, so no frantically checking Fivethirtyeight and RealClearPolitics dozens of times a day to keep up with the latest polls.  There were a lot fewer polls, too.  We got our information from our campaign director's daily phone calls with Washington, and I'm sure they were spinning it to keep us from jumping ship.

I wonder, then, if those local organizers for the McCain campaign really think he's going to win, if they believe they know something nobody else does, and that there's no way their hard work can be for nought. 

(Some good things came out of that campaign: that's where I met B, and we've been friends ever since, and that's where I learned most of what I know about campaigns, which has come in handy every time I've walked into an understaffed campaign office.  And we did win our district, though of course that had as much to do with demographics as with our hard work, though I like to think our hard work helped.)

1 comment:

landismom said...

Over the past 16 years I've definitely had occasion to be wrong about my candidate's (or, when I still lived in CA, my ballot initiative's) chances of success. It's really easy to get caught up in the fact that you are surrounded by people who agree with you, and be convinced that there aren't that many of the other kind.

I know that my own judgment is suspect in this arena. I've gotten to the point where I just won't make predictions, until about a day or two before the election, just because so many things can go wrong and make a drastic change near the end.