Government & Politics

Persuasion gives way to mobilization

Election Day is just 48 hours away. Tonight’s mayoral debate on WWL will be the last one. While the event presents one final opportunity to sling mud, given the relative accord on the campaign trail and the largely benign crop of last-minute radio attack ads and fliers this week, I don’t expect tonight’s debate to offer anything that will fundamentally shift the dynamics of this campaign.

The real campaign is on the ground. Which campaign will get their voters to the polls this Saturday?

It comes down to two things: organization and money.

In terms of organization, which campaigns have the most volunteers to knock on doors, drive people to their precincts, wave signs on median strips, phone bank, hand out literature, and monitor polls? Which campaigns have built relationships with other civic organizations that might participate in those sorts of activities?

In terms of money, which campaigns can afford to hire whatever street team they weren’t able to organize on their own?

As anyone who has left their house over the last several weeks has probably figured out, John Georges is likely to invest vast sums on assembling a street team. Paid sign-wavers are already fixture on major intersections. He’s had regular canvassing teams dropping literature on windshields and balanced on door handles. He has also scrambled vans to shuttle voters to early voting locations.

A Georges van drops off voters for early voting at City Hall.

This street-team infrastructure will most certainly be out in full force on Saturday.

The Mitch Landrieu team, according to a source on the campaign, expects to have a massive canvassing effort in place for Saturday and is counting on get-out-the-vote assistance from the African American political organizations LIFE and COUP.

“We are going to knock on tens of thousands of doors and we’ll be all over the city,” he said.

The campaign won’t eschew sign-waving entirely, but is concentrating primarily on getting people out of their houses and to the polls.

Troy Henry’s strategy is harder to discern. His inability earn the assistance of traditional African American political organizations is going to limit his access to an experienced base of volunteers and workers. Henry has put up enough of his own money to finance a significant operation, if he has the organization to put it to efficient use. According to the independent polls released publicly, Henry is in second place, and only needs to ensure that Landrieu is held under 50 percent of the vote to be able to compete mano-a-mano. Henry’s advertising over the past few weeks have targeted African-American voters with emotional remembrances of the Civil Rights era and appeals to its legacy so he may similarly concentrate his get-out-the-vote resources on mobilizing turnout in predominantly African-American precincts.

The James Perry campaign has wrapped up its persuasion efforts and is going to try to overcome its financial disadvantage by focusing on mobilizing chronic voters on Saturday through canvassing, phone banks, and rides.

Long shots Rob Couhig and Nadine Ramsey may similarly focus on turning out voters they’ve already identified as supporters.

A robust get-out-the-vote effort is especially critical for the Landrieu campaign. Independent and internal polls have Landrieu sitting just below or just above the 50 percent threshold that would preclude a runoff election on March 6, so the campaign has every incentive to be active on Saturday from dawn to dusk. At the risk of sounding like a sports pundit, Georges and Henry are maneuvering to not lose but Landrieu is fighting to win.

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  • Troy Henry has been putting his money in the wrong place. He needs to be courting as much crossover white vote as possible. If he’s going to make the runoff, he’s going to do it with as much black vote as he can manage and as many whites who hate the Landrieus as possible (basically, Nagin’s coalition).