Inflation or Ukraine. Inflation and Ukraine. Inflation, Ukraine and Gas Prices. Over and over on Saturday, in the key I-4 corridor in Central Florida, canvassers for Hope Springs from Field PAC heard the same answers to the question, “What Issue do you believe is most urgent facing our country at this time?”
After 4 months of rest, relaxation and, quite frankly, angst, we were knocking on doors again in Florida, talking to voters, raising the Democratic banner and collecting data that will help Democratic candidates get voters to the polls this November.
I am here to report that the state of the Democratic and Independent electorate in Central Florida is anxious and suddenly more interested than we were seeing last year. Which should be good for us. And they were glad to see us!
Just as importantly, voter views of President Biden is back to acceptable levels (meaning significantly higher than 50%). In the fall of 2021, across the board, we found voter approval of Biden was falling almost every week towards that 50% level. The withdrawal from Afghanistan, for lack of a better signal event, was brutal. And, in Florida, the media has been relentless on attacking or mocking Biden. But the voters we talked to were happy with the President, even if they weren’t that happy with what was happening in America and around the world. We weren’t seeing ringing praise — no one declared they were a Joe Biden Democrat — but we didn’t hear disgust, either. What we were hearing, rather, was confidence that President Biden was getting the job done.
It is important to realize that we were canvassing in suburban neighborhoods in Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties. In Osceola, we continued knocking on doors in Hispanic precincts and neighborhoods where we started last summer. And in Orange and Osceola, we are trying to focus on the redistricted FL-07, Stephanie Murphy’s district that has been tilted heavily towards Republicans (this is less about the eventual Democratic nominee — Murphy isn’t running for re-election — but about the Senate race).
We don’t knock on doors of Republican households (although we do knock on the doors of mixed households), we are targeting Democrats and Independent households in swingy, suburban areas.
Hope Springs from Field PAC has been knocking on doors in a grassroots-led effort to increase awareness of the fact that Democrats care about our voters and are working to protect their rights, and, in March, we will begin an even bigger effort. We are thinking about how to mitigate Voter Suppression efforts, get around them and make sure we have "super compliance," both informing and helping our voters meet the requirements and get out and vote. We are taking those efforts to the doors of the communities most effected (the intended targets or victims) of these new voter suppression laws.
Obviously, we rely on grassroots support, so if you support field/grassroots organizing, voter registration (and follow-up) and our efforts to protect our voters, we would certainly appreciate your support:
Hope Springs from Field PAC was started by former Obama Field Organizers because field was the cornerstone of our success. But the reason we won the Iowa Caucus in 2008 was because we registered voters and then turned them out! The approach we adopted was focused on listening, on connecting voters and their story to the candidate and our cause. Repeated face to face interactions are critical. And we are among those who believe that Democrats didn’t do as well in the 2020 Congressional races as expected because we didn’t knock on doors — and we didn’t register new voters (while Republicans did). We are returning to the old school basics: repeated contacts, repeated efforts to remind them of protocols, meeting them were they are. Mentoring those who need it (like first time and newly registered voters). Reminding, reminding, reminding, and then chasing down those voters whose ballots need to be cured.
Hope Springs has targeted states that have competitive Senate races in 2022 as well as districts that are remapped in ways that offer opportunities or vulnerabilities for Democrats next year. As not every state has completed their re-maps, re-districting hasn’t yet made those opportunities/needs apparent. The Senate map started out clear. That may be changing. There are places we need to defend (Georgia and Arizona) and there are opportunities. North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are such opportunities. We’d like to get into Nevada, too, and perhaps others that appear more competitive at that time — if we can generate the resources needed to do so. There is a lot of work to be done!
Like our Swing State canvasses last year, we walk with an Issues Questionnaire. Especially early in the cycle, where volunteers aren’t as comfortable with their campaign spiel, the Issues Survey allows for the voter to lead the conversation. Volunteers, then, are more focused on prompts, things that spur more thought and conversation so that we have a fuller picture of what motivates the voter.
We knock on the doors of Democratic and Independent voters. At every door, we leave a piece of “show the flag” lit, something that tells them we were there and hopefully reinforces the Democratic brand. The lit focuses on the things voters told us were important to them last fall, aiming to appeal to every voter. Far and away the number one issue that the voters we talked to in the Senate Swing States was inflation or price increases, and I imagine that concern has only increased since November.
But the main focus of our canvassing right now is the Issues Survey, asking voters for their input and concerns. We find that most voters who aren’t in a hurry or in the middle of something are willing to answer at least a couple of these questions, especially their top issue or concern and their views of President Biden. Voter responses to the questionnaire are entered into VAN and made available to all Democratic candidates who use VAN in the state after the primary. Creating this kind of data isn’t done with a specific goal in mind but has the purpose of engaging voters and creating a dataset that any Democratic candidate can use in opposition to a Republican.
Hope Springs from Field PAC has a hybrid approach. We aren’t interested in competing with regular campaign field organizing. We are in the field before they get there and then move on when the Democratic campaigns start their intensive field work. Indeed, when we wind up the typical field work by Labor Day, we will encourage all the volunteers working with us to move over to the Senate campaigns in their states (and hope that our field organizers will be hired on by those campaigns). After Labor Day, we will begin organizing our Election Protection Project.
But we are also cognizant that Democratic turnout has traditionally dropped off more than Republicans in non-presidential years. So early, frequent voter contact is more important to our side. Equally important, though, is that starting early means that we can make up for our inability to register new voters in the presidential election because we took Covid and the health of our base seriously. Registering new voters (and re-registering existing voters at their current address, in compliance with HAVA) at their door is the hard way to do voter registration, but we catch people that our voter registration campaigns can miss because of their emphasis on larger-scale or mass voter registration.
Although not surprising, we continued to find the Governor DeSantis isn’t that popular where we canvassed. What was interesting, though, is that we found more voters who had an impression of Senator Rubio than of Governor DeSantis — even though DeSantis is much more visible in the media than is Rubio. And this was true in light of the fact that (this week) voters told us they got their news from the local television.
As you can see from the very first question in the Issues Questionnaire, making sure that voters are registered from their current address is a major function of early canvassing. Part of this is making sure that voters are registered in compliance to the new, confusing and frustrating Election law that is particularly onerous for people who change residences more frequently than normal.
The new law requires voters to provide, in addition to their date of birth, the last four digits of their Social Security number OR their driver license OR state ID card number to make an address change. Which is par for the course this year, but here’s the part that is likely to stump people who move around. You have to remember which one you provided, because you have to provide the same one every single time you interact with your local Supervisor of Elections, or your request won’t be granted. Supervisors of Elections won’t have access to other databases, so they can only "verify” a request by the information the voter has provided.
Finally, we got lots of positive feedback from our volunteers on Saturday. It was a nice day (78 degrees when we gathered but sunny and in the 80s for the rest of the day) and people said they were glad to be outside. The reception was encouraging — which always helps. Most of our volunteers were experienced in going door to door, but we did have new people in each of our three canvasses. Unlike October, where we did get some discouraging feedback from voters, voters last weekend were much more receptive to the message and our purpose. It was nice.
By starting early, and aiming towards super-compliance with these really, really onerous provisions, Hope Springs from Field PAC seeks to undermine that strategy, while informing voters about the new laws and regulations aimed at them. That includes making sure that out-of-state workers at Disney know to, and how to, obtain a State ID card if they don’t want to give up their out-of-state DL but still want to vote in Florida. There’s a lot of work to be done, but fortunately, the three states that are making it most difficult are also states in which you can knock on doors at least 10 months out of the year. And, with your help, we will be there, getting our people to super-comply with these restrictive provisions.
If you are able to support our efforts to protect Democratic voters, especially in minority communities, expand the electorate, and believe in grassroots efforts to increase voter participation and election protection, please help:
Thank you for your support.