Retail Politics versus Rally Politics versus Digital Politics

I am on the ground here in Iowa. Full confession: this is the first time I have had a front row seat for the Iowa Caucuses. It’s an amazing process driven by different dynamics than typical primaries.

There is a lot of chatter about which polls to believe, which ones to ignore and how things will actually play out on Monday.

I think there are three scenarios, each driven by three different types of campaigns.

The first is the retail politics model being employed by the Cruz campaign. It’s door to door work. It’s live phone calls. It’s pressing the flesh and as I witnessed today, showing up at a small bar in a place called Ringsted, Iowa to talk to what might have been 100 voters.

It’s an old school model with a modern twist.

The second is the rally model employed by the consummate entertainer Trump (because, let’s be honest, that’s what he is). That model is even more simple. Focus your efforts on urban areas, host rallies and give speeches. Make no mistake-a lot of people are showing up at Trump’s rallies. But as Erick noted recently, rally attendees don’t naturally become voters, or, even more importantly, caucus goers. Going to a caucus is not taking 30 minutes to drive to your polling location, walk into a booth, cast your vote and drive home. It is a process that can take up to several hours.

So the question for Trump and his team is this: have they miraculously turned rally goers into voters? The buzz around Iowa is that yes, Trump does have some ground game, but it is disorganized. Or as one operative mentioned to me yesterday, it’s so stealth, no one, not even his own campaign, is aware of what may be a caucus day phenomenon.

Third, but not last, is the brand of digital politics that Rubio and his team are employing. When Monmouth recently reported that 45% of known caucus goers in Iowa had been contacted by a campaign, 25% of them said the Cruz campaign had contacted them and surprisingly, 17% said the Rubio campaign had contacted them. It’s no secret that the Rubio team does not have a Cruz style ground game here in Iowa. Their efforts have been digital in nature, a “21st century” model that honestly, reminds me a lot of what the RNC and it’s folks were saying going into the 2012 Presidential election. The old school tactics of retail politics had been displaced by more sophisticated models.

As I told a commentator last night, maybe we will see for the first time an effort that is digital in nature actually pay off. With the caucuses still a few days away, who can say.

So keep an eye on Iowa, not just to see who wins, but to see how that candidate wins.

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Drew Ryun

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