A chilly canvass underscores importance of campaign data

December 20, 2015

Door knocking in the Manchester winter is not for the faint of heart – or for the under-dressed.

“I hope you have some warmer clothes,” Karen Higgins, a co-president of National Nurses United, said to me on Saturday morning as she and fellow union members Eileen Norton and Yesenia Novaton allowed me to tag along while they canvassed for for presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

This kind of door knocking is the kind of foot soldier campaign work that’s time consuming, uncomfortable – and also essential. (The Hillary for NH account tweeted about their own door knocking on Saturday, as well.) In states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, with high-profile early voting contests, many voters expect personal contact from candidates and campaigns.

And the door knocking also underscores the importance of the kind of voter data at the heart of Friday’s dispute between the Sanders campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The DNC accused the Sanders campaign of improperly accessing data from the party’s frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, during a firewall failure. Later, Sanders apologized both to Clinton and his supporters at the Democratic debate on Saturday night.

Saturday’s door knocking was not put in jeopardy because the address lists were prepared ahead of the breach and Sanders being locked out of the campaign database by the DNC. The nurses carried with them lists of voters, including names and addresses. Considering that houses were set far back from the street on large lots, with plenty of street between them, being able to target your efforts instead of just randomly walking up huge driveway after huge driveway can be, well, hugely valuable.

We stood on a residential street in Goffstown, the odd snowflake drifting down around us. Higgins, a nurse from Massachusetts, had wisely dressed in a number of layers. I had not.

Plenty of people weren’t home, and of the ones who answered the door, a number were either not interested or supporting someone else. One woman who answered a door said she too was a nurse – for Trump. Another woman who wore a running shirt said that she was in fact a Republican.

But there were the occasional victories, too. One woman answered the door with hands covered in cookie dough; she hadn’t made up her mind yet, she said, and she accepted a flyer about the Vermont Democrat.

And one elderly woman opened the door, heard that the nurses were canvassing for Sanders and exclaimed, “He’s my favorite!” and asked for a yard sign, to boot. “I’ll do everything I can for Bernie,” she added.

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