How can the Green Party of Canada co-ordinate Air War and Ground War?

Dan Grice Effectively Targeted Conservative support

Dan Grice Effectively Targeted Conservative support

In some prior posts, I blogged about just how weak and ineffective the GPC’s attack on the Conservative Party was in the 2008 general election. The basic fact is that in electoral politics, if you want to attack a Party, you do so by appealing to their supporters with a message that strongly resonates, and will draw them away from their allegiance. The heightened rhetoric coming from the GPC in 2008 was counterproductive if the objective was to actually hurt the CPC. By castigating Stephen Harper in such strong language, we gave no reason for softer supporters of the Conservatives to reconsider their position, and entrust their votes to the Green Party.

I am going to make a bold assumption about the GPC’s national campaign theme, and message for the upcoming general election. Federal Council has apparently decided that there is only one overriding objective in the upcoming election, that being to elect Elizabeth May. It is becoming equally obvious that the intention is to achieve this feat by unseating Gary Lunn in SGI. Hopefully, it’s become clear to the FCC that the only way to achieve this result is to directly target, and win over Conservative voters in  SGI. If the national campaign is actually going to be delivering a (partly) Conservative friendly message, then there are quite a number of campaigns in Canada who will have a great opportunity which they should be ready to capitalise on.

Yes, there are Liberal and NDP voters who could, and should be targetted everywhere. After all, these voters are much more inclined to vote Green, and in many ridings will represent the low hanging fruit. I will guess that Ignatieff’s rejection of Dion’s Green Tax Shift, and unequivocal promotion of the Tar Sands, will give a small, but significant opportunity for us to target Liberal voters. There are places though where the local Campaign will need to focus on small c Conservative voters. I’m thinking about the obvious candidates like Bruce Grey Owen Sound, or SGI, or pretty well any riding in Alberta. I would go so far as to argue that Alberta, (and Quebec), should be planning a regional campaign, with a dramatically different theme than the rest of Canada. Any riding in Canada that has concentrated pockets of Conservative voters should have an opportunity to crack the CPC vote open a little bit, without having to expend huge resources on it.

If the ‘Air War’ is in fact going to be broadcasting a message targeting conservatives, then this will present an opportunity for most EDA’s to expand their vote in previously barren grounds. I recently commented on the GPC blogs regarding targeting the CPC vote. Dan Grice, the GPC Candidate for Vancouver Quadra responded with a link to a campaign flyer they developed to target Conservative held polls in his riding. Anecdotally, he claimed a great response, including a big bounce in the vote in those polls, and plenty of sign requests. I ask you to consider, if your campaign were to do a flyer drop into strongly Conservative polls, while at the same time the national Campaign was emphasising the same, or very similar messages over the airwaves, would this not be a very effective tool for winning support?

Co-ordinating the ground war, and the air war are pretty important in my opinion. The National Campaign will undoubtedly have a 36 day plan, with key messages, and announcements planned for maximum impact. The timing of the Air War, and some of the content will undoubtedly be a closely guarded secret. That’s all very well and good, but the secrecy must be tempered by the need for local Campaigns to plan their efforts to coincide with the national Campaign. If, for example, a major media event is planned for the leader, and if, for example, the message for this event is conservative friendly, then the local Campaigns should have the opportunity to capitalise on the exposure. They might want to print flyers, issue press releases, revise and re-target their telephone and foot canvas, in order to take advantage of the exposure the Air War has generated, and reinforce it where it will do the most good.

A very well planned National Campaign would be ready to help make this one-two punch possible. By developing a sound, and targeted message. By targeting effectively, and then developing the collateral (flyers, press release templates, subsidy for EDA’s to do targeted mailshots, etc), they will empower the local Campaigns to take advantage. Above all, by having a well planned, and resourced internal communications strategy, they will be able to co-ordinate the timing, and ensure that the right information and material gets into the right hands with enough time to act on it. All the planning in the world is wasted if  there are no people in place to make the phone calls, order and deliver flyer print runs, and make sure that the plan gets implemented. Conversely, if the National Campaign feels they don’t have the resources (people), to co-ordinate release dates like a well oiled machine, then the decision should be to lift the veil of secrecy somewhat. It would be essential to allow the local campaigns to plan for themselves how to wring the maximum benefit from the planned ‘Air War’. It’s far more important that our own campaigns are able  to capitalise, than it is to prevent our Opposition from finding out what we’re up to.

Many local campaigns won`t really have the people to divert from their ID – GOTV canvas to start doing big flyer drops in short 1 or 2 day windows of opportunity. Here is a simple model for the National Campaign, and the local campaigns to consider. Research the theme and message centrally, and test with public polls to ensure that the theme resonates with, and will convert the target demographic. Purchase the broad form census results from Statistics Canada, and use geospatial mapping tools to map the target demographic onto poll maps. When the time is right, release the poll maps to the local campaigns, with suggested targets clearly outlined. Integrate this data into Grimes database, so that the local campaign can target the appropriate voters. The local campaign can then go to Canada Posts` unaddressed, or addressed admail site, and have Canada Post deliver the appropriate flyer to the target postal walks. Canada Post makes it pretty easy to target unaddressed admail by postal walks, (the last three digits in the postal code). The costs of delivery can be reduced to below $0.12 per piece, if the National Campaign were to negotiate contract rates on our behalf. If you assume printing costs of around $0.07 per piece, then you could deliver 10,000 pieces, to a well targeted audience, at a cost of about $2,000. I know that `junk mail` is a little, (lot), controversial, but the fact remains that it is a cheap and effective way to get a whole lot of literature on target in a hurry.

It should be obvious to all that this methodology should be the same no matter who our target audience is. While I am argueing here that the message will most likely be directed at conservative voters, this is how the National Campaign should be operating whosoever the campaign theme targets.

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Managing expectations and the Green Party of Canada’s ‘message’.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May plans to take on Tory MP Gary Lunn in the next federal election. Photo Credit: Tyler Anderson, National Post

Green Party leader Elizabeth May plans to take on Tory MP Gary Lunn in the next federal election. Photo Credit: Tyler Anderson, National Post

There has been a lot of interest and discussion within, (and without) Green Party ranks regarding the big question: “Where will Elizabeth May be running in the next election?” There have been some pretty open discussions about the relative merits, and electability in given riding’s, in a kind of a guessing game based on public utterances by Elizabeth, and whatever drip-pets of information come from informal internal sources. This discussion is healthy, and without question serves a useful purpose in drawing out strategic analysis of varying quality from people both within, and without the decision making loop.

I am afraid that most of us that I am aware of, (With the notable exception of Bill Hulett, a leading light and long time organiser in the Guelph EDA), have more or less ignored the consequences of talking it up so heavily. Cast your mind back to the 2004 election, with tons of hype by Jim Harris, and GPC hacks that Greens were poised to elect MP’s all over the place. Remember the public, and media reaction to the election outcome? “Greens fail to elect MP” is a reasonably representative headline for you to think about. Again, in 2005-6, Bruce Grey Owen Sound was trumpeted as the ‘breakthrough riding’, with predictable results when the election was said and done. London North Centre by-election? Same deal, with the added salacious fact that the shiny new media star had failed to win, even in a by-election. Central Nova? There was a broad reaction that despite the presence of Elizabeth in the debate, the Green Party still came nowhere near.

Over the past few weeks, Elizabeth May has been giving interviews charging that the Green Party has a single objective, that overrides all other concerns. Electing Elizabeth May to Parliament. If you actually sit back and consider the past consequences of failing to meet very demanding self imposed expectations, this starts to look like a very very risky communications fiasco in the making. The downsides for both Elizabeth May, and the Green Party are pretty big. If Elizabeth fails to get elected in SGI, then the Green Party has failed once again.

I don’t believe it will be fatal, or even particularly injurious to the GPC. We will continue to grow our strength in more and more EDA’s, because we do have many hundreds of dedicated local activists. Every election pours resources into well organised EDA’s, and the teams get broader, and deeper in skills, experience, and raw electoral resources like ID’d voter lists. Nonetheless, it will further damage our credibility, and will provide plenty of ammunition for our political foes. For Elizabeth May, it will be a big drag on her personal profile, and will devalue her once impressive stature as one of the foremost environment advocates in Canada. It is likely, even probable that Elizabeth would lose the leadership of the Party, with the attendant loss of prestige and credibility. Not a very good outcome for somebody whose future livelihood depends on the high profile that she has spent a lifetime building.

I have been as guilty as anybody in inflating the rhetoric surrounding the choice of riding’s. It’s a choice that needed to be made, and many people wanted to influence the decision, in a positive direction. I apologise if Elizabeth thought it was needful to quell criticism by acknowledging the Party’s wishes in this way. I wonder if it is too late to wind back the clock, and start managing expectations better? What would the best route be to backtrack, and start publicising equally important, but less ‘sexy’ objectives? Should we set up broader objectives to be given equal, (at least), prominence to the laudible, but very challenging task of electing an MP?

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Just read a great post on DemocraticSPACE.com

What does the Data mean?

What does the Data mean?

I just read a great post on DemocraticSPACE.com. Greg Morrow has constructed a matrix to do comparative analysis and ranking of  electoral potential for the Green Party of Canada. What a novel thought for the National Campaign, data driven decision making!  Greg has constructed a matrix whereby he ranks every electoral district in the country by relative standings for the following variables: Membership, votes won, gap between GPC and the winner, numbers of ID’d voters, and then compiles them into a ranking from strongest to weakest riding.

 Normally I have criticisms to make about anything that anybody has to say. Call it a personality flaw, or call it attention to detail  if you’re more diplomatic. In a previous post I discussed the importance of how the vote split falls in determining the electoral opportunities facing an electoral district. Greg’s matrix should probably include a measure of close 2-way, 3-way, and 4-way splits as well. The closer the split, the more different strategies, and opportunities will exist to win votes from other Party’s. For example, if there is a close 3-way split in the vote, and there’s a 20 point spread between the GPC and the first place, the GPC has the opportunity to win votes from each of the three front runners, and build up the 20 point deficit. If there is a way out there front runner, with a 16% spread between the GPC and the winner, then the chances are the deficit needs to be made up entirely at the expense of an incumbent. The incumbency factor is very difficult to overcome, and as far as the GPC annihilating a single Party, if you believe that possible, then I’ve got a bridge for sale you should really think about.

The only other significant criticism I could make would be regarding the ID’d voter data. I can only assume  that Greg has access to civiCRM, and/or GRIMES voter ID data. Many EDA’s don’t use them. I know at least two EDA’s that have significant numbers of ID’d voters resident on custom local d-base apps. Plus there’s the stacks of paper records in most campaign managers basements, waiting for somebody to do the data entry. (Unfortunately, the data entry seldom ever happens, and the data is lost).  In London North Centre by-election, I compiled data on over 9,000 identified Green Party supporters in order to quantify the outcomes from the GOTV effort. The scrutineers sheets were sent to the shredder instead of putting in the two hours of work needed to scan in the actual voters names, so the analysis could never be done, but surely the GPC retained the lists of ID’d voters?

The above paragraph illustrates a point that most professional users of data are aware of. When you formally start quantifying things, run sophisticated analysis, and present it neatly, the conclusions take on a life of their own. They become ‘THE NUMBERS’, and are inherently believable. You need to retain your critical faculties, and dig deeper into the underlying assumptions, and data quality. In conclusion, Greg Morrow’s matrix is a most excellent tool for targeting resources, and ranking Electoral districts. There are a few flaws and/or problems, but they are readily overcome. Be sure to check it out if you plan on holding an opinion on targeted ridings.

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More ‘Target riding’ news for the Green Party of Canada.

How about Genest earning his keep in the Montmagny By-election?

How about Genest earning his keep in the Montmagny By-election?

Every Monday, I trot off to the Hill Times website to imbibe the best political reporting in the country. This morning, I saw an intriguing article entitled: May ‘closes the door’ on a byelection run for Greens, seeking new riding . As usual, it was a little frustrating to find the balance of the article blocked, and I even, (briefly) considered ponying up for a subscription so as to get the whole story NOW. It isn’t only the Hill Times, apparently Elizabeth May has told several journalists that she is out of the running for any Federal by-elections, and is focusing on finding the best riding for herself in the next General election.

The Owen Sound SunTimes seems to think that Elizabeth is looking hard at Bruce Grey Owen Sound as a target riding. (As does the Toronto Star). It is also reported that there are still 2 other target ridings. Saanich – Gulf-Islands, (SGI), and Guelph. I had been under the impression that the decision had already been made to run in SGI, but unless Elizabeth is deliberately playing coy, these interviews seem to indicate the choice is still open. Two of these ridings are pretty serious Conservative strongholds. BGOS, and SGI. There is only one way to win in either of them. That is to campaign with the message that targets the Conservatives. Please read this post I wrote in January for a nice and simple explanation. Guelph is the obvious target though. The big caveat is that the Campaign Committee needs to actually discuss this with the Guelph EDA, and see if there is enough support for Elizabeth with the local membership. There were some very upset people in Guelph last fall, but maybe they’ve gotten over their ‘mad’ enough to give a leaders campaign a whirl?

 In the same article, the Suntimes report that CCMV has been discarded, because the by-election hasn’t been called yet. Since no by-elections have been called anywhere, I think that means that Elizabeth isn’t prepared to take the risk of declaring for any by-election, and then having the rug yanked out from under her if a general election super-cedes the by-election. I can understand why. She has to win in her next trip to the polls, and while a by-election  is the best opportunity, the ridings available aren’t very good candidates for her in a General election.

 The problem of course is that Elizabeth very publicly, and frequently promised to run in the first possible by-election, so now she has to find a graceful way to back down from that commitment. In my estimation, she will have to eat a wee nibble of humble pie, and back down. It will help a lot if she were able to make a grand announcement of a couple spare deputy leaders decisions to run in Quebec, and BC by-elections. Who to get for CCMV I don’t have a clue. Better get cracking though, the by-elections will be happening this fall, and the GPC cannot afford to lose any ground in the event the general election doesn’t happen this fall.

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