DSCC invests $60M in ground game to defend majority in midterms

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is investing $60 million in a ground-game effort geared towards boosting turnout to presidential-year levels to help the party defend its majority in the Senate.

ADVERTISEMENT
The effort reflects the realization among Democrats that if historic trends showing turnout among key Democratic voting blocs falling off in midterm elections hold, the party could lose control of the upper chamber.

According to a New York Times report, the DSCC’s effort includes more than 4,000 paid staffers and will target 10 states: Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana and West Virginia.

Notably absent from the list are Colorado and New Hampshire, two states that Republicans hope to make competitive but haven’t yet been seriously compromised for Democrats.

Code-named the “Bannock Street Project,” after the street where DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has his Denver field headquarters, the effort aims to turn out single women, minorities and young voters in numbers that rival election year results.

The committee plans to mine data much the same way the Obama campaign did to boost turnout in the president’s favor, and will focus on both voter registration and mobilization efforts in those key states.

Though the Obama campaign was successful in tipping many swing states in his favor, it didn’t so much as dabble in some of the states with competitive races this cycle — meaning Democrats are starting from scratch in some cases.

The $60 million is a hefty sum for the committee to invest in a ground operation, and comes as Democrats are expected to face an unprecedented barrage of television attacks from outside GOP groups this cycle.

One such group, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, has already invested $25 million since August in television attacks focused on ObamaCare.

DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil said that while it’s important for Democrats to keep up with Republicans in the air wars, the party also needs to maintain a strong ground game.

“Yes, we have to be on TV and yes we have to help close the gap between Democrats and Republicans on the air, but we’re not willing to sacrifice the turnout operation or the field operation to do that,” he told the Times.

The committee is establishing teams of operatives in each of the state it’s targeting, all of which will be subjected to “murder boards” — a reference to the rigorous preparation process candidates and presidential appointees undergo for debates and confirmation hearings — by the DSCC’s new national field director, Paul Dunn, who handled Bennet’s field operation in 2010.

The more than 4,000 paid field staffers the DSCC plans to have on the ground by election day encompasses senior field operatives in every state to phone bankers and paid canvassers in targeted locations around the country.

And it’s pairing up with a data analytics firm founded by former Obama campaign chief analytics officer Dan Wagner, called Civis Analytics, to provide the teams with a deep and wide trove of voter information it will use to inform its efforts. 

—This piece was updated at 3:52 p.m.