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Here's what I could bet on Trump

Sasha Isenberg is the author of several books, including Laboratory of Victory: The Secret Science of the Victory Campaign .

Austin, Texas. behind the threads of bistro lights and began to disclose the campaign strategy of Beto O'Rourke in precise details. Malets, who was director of the Senate election campaign at O'Rourke is a high 30-year-old boy with thick eyeglasses and a hairstyle that can steadily drift toward the needle during the election season. He outlined the exact numbers of potential voters who, in the opinion of the campaign, should try to achieve how many of these voters had access to a mobile phone, and ̵

1; with some arithmetic – a critical amount that would have led to the final push of the campaign: the exact figure of volunteer telephone transfers, which he considered necessary to win the state.

This information about a granular campaign is usually considered a mystery. If Malitsa's conversation was in an encrypted PowerPoint presentation on a private server, it could be a profitable change for WikiLeaks home office. And if O'Rourke calls Donald Trump in 2020, this presentation can offer a cleaner encapsulation of how he can do it.

History goes on below

People who saw an online call for supporters and decided to appear on this day. It was September 15th, less than two months before the Senate elections, and nearly 2000 people registered at the stop on the campaign "Plan to win". . Over 800 eventually drove, through the rain to the east of East Austin did not know for existing public parking to visit.

"The plan of victory is actually quite commonplace," Malitz said from the outset, his voice echoing with a portable microphone. "Create a voter contact machine that will allow thousands of volunteers in each of Texas's 254 districts to conduct conversations with more voters across the state than any Texas history campaign."

For the Democrats, this story was gloomy. Malits reminded his audience that Jimmy Carter was the last presidential candidate in 1976, and that no Democrat had won an office in the state since 1994 – the longest loss of the party in any country in the country. No Democrat campaigning for the Senate did not even hit 10 percent of the victory over the current Republican for four decades. In order to build a different fate in the mid-term elections, the O'Rourke campaign should have caused 1 million Voices outside the current pool of active voters – in essence, to create an entirely new electorate within the state.

This goal was as follows. It's brave that Malets first had to convince his audience that it is even demographically possible. He explained that campaign analysts identified 5.5 million Texas voters who would likely support Rourke, but they probably did not vote in the 2018 election. to go after every last one: on the threshold, using text messages and through phone calls, Malits called what Beto called. All this suggests tens of millions of attempts to capture some of Texas's most politically elusive citizens.

The most radical was not the grandeur of rhetoric – the lines to attract everyone, especially those who vote, are typical of many democratic countries. speeches, but the Texas Democrat could have such a goal within its reach. In order to satisfy this, O & # 39; Rourke's campaign would have to throw fuel on its already explosive growth, quickly adding thousands of unpaid subscribers, text and blocking passersby to their ranks. The crowded lines before Malec showed that O'Rourke could cause this level of volunteers, but management was a separate challenge. Establishing an organization of this size usually takes months, even years, to hire and train locally, and then gradually flushes them to new ones. Rourke had a few weeks in the campaign.

"Well, so here we go!" – exclaimed Malits.

The mood returned from the TED to the resurrection meeting. "If you have space – a garage, your house, your business – what would you like to donate to pop-ups, please stand up right now," Malitz said. When people rose from their seats, Malits sparked applause, and then dozens of election commissioners directed them to issue documents that would block their adherence. Then, the same training for those volunteers who would run the pop-office or conduct trainings for telephone banks and block the walks. A few minutes after he first introduced his crowd to this enormous project Malets introduced hundreds of them to leadership roles.

At the same time, Malitz introduced to the Austin presentation "Plan to win" his deputy, Katelin Coglan, read the 354 participants from the same scenario in X'munhount. Malets has already given a field in Dallas and Denton, and was about to go on his Ford F-150, his rear seat littered with energy drinks by Rockstar and Almanac of American Politics to San Antonio to do it again. During the weekend and the previous events in the six largest cities of Texas, the participants undertook to fill almost 15,000 volunteer changes. There may be more in Texas, but when the two-year congressman El Paso was about to run for Senate a year ago, there was no reason to expect his campaign to reach such a huge size. (She ended up with staff similar to Donald Trump's entire national organization in 2016.) For almost a year, Malitz instilled in his team an irrepressible focus on growth at any price, with pleasure rejects precision and responsibility for the scale. . Along the way, they gladly broke a number of violations of how modern democratic campaigns should operate.

Rourke is currently on standby for president with a "loss of Senate candidate" as the most striking line on his resume. That's exactly what he has decided to launch this campaign last year, which distinguishes him from his potential democratic rivals. "Rourke rejected the hard-to-find relics of Barack Obama's campaigns: a fashion for data science, care for a professional organizing class, and one-on-one humanity. Instead, his campaign adhered to principles that are more reminiscent of the fact that Silicon Valley types are called "hypercamera" – a system that is flexible enough to expand at an exponential rate, in spite of the understanding that a rapid increase can justify and justify all other disadvantages.

Politically, it was a big bet on the strategy of mobilizing rare voters, rather than trying to win credible. National campaign strategists pay close attention to how O'Reorge made this: Few of the candidates took on the commitment, completely, if slightly thoughtlessly, to the belief that monomania is centered on a large-scale event – this is the most powerful tool which Democrats should use the Latent Numerical Majority in the United States.

Less than two months after the presentation of Malitz in Austin, when the figures came, it was clear that Beto O'Rourke managed to demonstrate more than any Texas democrat in the generation. It was also clear that this was not enough: on January 3, it was a Republican president, Ted Cruz, who took an oath to the Senate. Is the beta for the Senate a plan for the democrat, including O'Rourke himself, to act at the national level in 2020? Is this a conviction within the mobilization?


There are two ways to gain votes in the elections. The first is to convince those who are likely to vote and persuade them to choose you, either by selling your story or attacking your opponent. The other is mobilization, that is, finding people already standing on your side and pushing them to vote. Most candidates make each one by spending money on newsletters and advertising within the campaign of persuasion by mobilizing non-standard partisans with individualized voting reminders.

The arrival of Beto O'Reorge in Washington in 2012 is the easiest story of persuasion – a long-running contender for a seat in Congress who has beaten an acquaintance by persuading voters that he is best for another guy. Rourke was at that time a charismatic, but generally uncertain, 39-year-old. – The last one who launched the web design company and served in the city council of El Paso; He was encouraged to lead local local energy brokers who sought to expel a representative of Sylvester Reyes, a formidable device in a reliably democratic constituency in West Texas. The main challenge of Rourke was reinforced by a supercompute, partly funded by his test, which spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars on Reyes to enrich his seven-year long Congressional congress. The announcements helped raise questions about the overwhelming problem for voters choosing between them, so that later Reese's attempt to portray his opponent as a supporter of drug legalization was flat.

However, Rourke [19599010] himself, however, prefers to tell a completely different story about his journey to Washington. He likes to recall that he personally knocked on 16,000 doors in a race that solved approximately 3,000 votes, never mentioning that he pulled two pairs of shoes in the process. This activity has been transformed into a cadre of young volunteers whose free work brought balance to the race, in which Rickard's campaign, which had one staff member, raised herself to less than half the money Reese had.

experience, the victorious candidate and his advisers have created their own myth about the creation in which success has reached interpersonal contact, not the convincing power of the media. "Part of our DNA: if you're not at the door, you will not win the race," Susie Byrd, a former colleague of the city council, told Rick, who was active in his campaigns, Texas observer.

After two terms in Congress, O'Reorge decided to use this story and aim even higher by taking on a regular figure with apparent weaknesses: Senator Ted Cruz, a brutal conservative who was personally unpopular and damaged by a dirty national primary fight with Donald Trump. After the 2016 election, Rourke asked the Chief of Staff of Congress, David Weisson, to develop a strategy for expelling Cruz, and the aesthetics of knocking out doors became central to the very concept of the campaign.

Executive staff who worked as a volunteer in the 2012 campaign. He has no experience in politics that is not useful to his friend Beto, and remains unusual among decision makers, for being willing to express uncertainty, ignorance, even doubt. In his work he planned to organize a nationwide choice for O'Reorge, studying two organizations of a national campaign that was blessed and damned with great enthusiasm among volunteers and donors, and tried to capture this enthusiasm in different ways.

Obama's presidential campaigns were the first to be seen as a benchmark for high-tech, local elections. Their field organizations relied on a trapezium-like structure in which thousands of employees managed one another. Below was the organizer of the field, designed to supervise the office – usually it was a rented shop designed to serve as a friendly communal center for volunteers. The main unit for their work was a team of neighbors, which included members who lived next to each other. Each team was run by an organizer, whose success was measured by the number of volunteers who were recruited and trained by teams under her team. The task was to make the official, headquarters campaign so everywhere – in 2012 in Ohio, 131 of them remain, that volunteers will be involved in frequent changes in local activities. Campaign officials called it "a model of Starbucks."

Obama organizations have had enough money and time not to make large compromises between their depth in the communities and the breadth of their reach, but, like most of the campaign participants, Wysong knew he would be compelled to choose. "The thing in Texas is just an infinite number of goals that you never literally get." Would I like to impress them all? So. I would. At the same time, I do not know that I could have enough money to get there, "he said. "It will take a huge deal, which we could never afford in a typical way."

He has found much more to take on the commitment of the 2010 presidential primary campaign of Bernie Sanders, which had neither time nor predictability. such a rigid national structure. The most important early states of Iowa and New Hampshire monopolized official resources, while other states, whose primaries and sessions Sanders were not convinced that he would survive in order to force himself to compete, were forced to cope with the small. In addition to those who voted ahead of time, the campaign found hot volunteers, but could not provide employees with management or offices for their placement. A bold and potentially risky decision came from Zack Aksley and Becky Bond, two long-time left-wing activists who came to the Sanders campaign with well-developed skepticism to the traditional tactics of their organization. The only way they could quickly bring mass motion to scale they believed was to skip a serious case of a professional organization and adopt a decentralized approach. "In the current social context, people should not be politically awake – they are ready to work to make changes," they wrote in Rules for revolutionaries: how large a organization can change everything, memoir-cum manifesto about Sanders's experience and his lessons. "The revolution will be led by volunteer leaders who take on the work on the campaign plan, the plan is so great that it can only be achieved when everyone who wants change (most people) works together"

Texas was one of the states where their large organizational model was most fully adopted. Phone banks for the identification and mobilization of supporters were not conducted from election campaign offices, but from volunteer houses, thanks to a technology that did not exist when Obama first ran for president. Rather than simply contacting voters in their immediate vicinity, calls are redirected wherever an automated communicator has found a straight line. The volunteers managed one another and solved the problem with the support service that communicated through Slack; many have finished leadership roles, never interacting with a campaign employee. Analyzing the results, analysts have determined that the volunteers were as productive as workers.

The digital director of Texas Sanders effort was Malitz, and when the Beto O'Rourke campaign was formed, Bond offered Wysong that he was a Legal person to translate and update his lessons in the Senate race. Wysong, who became chairman of the campaign, appointed Malitz to a post with broad authority in the field of organization, data and analytics. During the campaign, Rourke led an unusual dual-headed structure: Austin guided the field operations and voter contacts, and campaign manager Jody Casey, also a political neophyte, worked. In El Paso, the behavior of the function is, in advance and in a relationship, more closely related to the candidate.

О'Рурк, який провів частину своїх 20-річних гастролей у складі гурту "Фосс", часто говорив про те, щоб почуття панк-рок до виборчої кампанії, і доблесна аматорська діяльність великого організаційного підходу добре вписувалася. Кандидат провів більшу частину свого часу за кермом свого мінівена, часто звертаючись до виборців через iPhone, домашню форму подорожі, яка затьмарювала складну шасі онлайн-фандрейзингу. "Керуючи цим Караваном Dodge по Техасу, ми самі їдемо", – каже О'Рурк після однієї зупинки кампанії в Мідленді. "Немає жодного приватного літака, жодного консультанта, жодного соціолога, який би сказав, що це повідомлення, яке ви повинні сказати цій групі або тому".

Естетичні люди, які просто естетичні, добре вписуються в міфологію, що вибивається з дверей, яку віддає перевага коло Ель-Пасо О'Рурка, і разом вони вказують на загальну стратегію кампанії. Висонг визначив шлях до перемоги, що повністю залежить від явки, в якій енергія кампанії була б в основному присвячена виявленню та мобілізації ненадійних лівих виборців. Якщо він дотримуватиметься цього плану, О'Рурк ніколи навіть не повинен буде найняти соціолога, тому що він насправді не піклується про переміщення думок. Не було б тріангуляції проти бази його партії, жодного розумного залицяння відносно невеликої частини потенційних партійних комутаторів з поглядами праворуч від нього. "Я ніколи не був супер-захоплений, що є достатньо голосів, щоб виграти", сказав Wysong. «Серед мільйонів голосів немає.

Але це означало, що О'Рурк потребував ентузіазму добровольців і донорів – багато хто з них, і швидко.


Переважна більшість виборців «Рурк, зрештою, повинен був мобілізуватися, ймовірно, ніколи раніше з ним не було зв'язано кампанію. В результаті, коли О'Рурк розпочав свою польову програму наприкінці 2017 року, він вирішив навіть не працювати з бази даних зареєстрованих виборців, типовою відправною точкою. Замість цього, Маліц і його команда розіслали добровольців з інструкцією зупинитися на кожній адресі, сліпо стукнувши по дверях і запитавши будь-яких дорослих за це, чи підтримують вони Бето. багато будинків, навіть якщо люди, які жили в багатьох з них, ніколи не голосували б за О'Рурка – будь то вірні республіканці або негромадяни. За стандартами сучасної агітації це була дико неефективна робота, але випускники кампанії Сандерса розглядали це як хорошу практику для аматорів. «Початок агітації – це вивчення того, щоб бути хорошим при проведенні опитувань», – заявив Бонд, житель Каліфорнії, який приєднався до цієї кампанії як старший радник. "Найпростіше було просто вийти туди, де ви живете і стукати у двері, не їхати в якийсь офіс, а потім виходити на цю специфічну дернину в околиці, яку ви не знаєте".

Коли вони знайшли прихильника, волонтерів Попросив на ім'я те, що кампанія називала бюлетенем "зобов'язання на голосування" і штовхнула отримати номер мобільного телефону поряд з ним. Кожен виборець, якого вони ідентифікували як прихильника Бето, ставився не тільки до виборців, але як до потенційного волонтера. Починаючи з середини грудня, невеликий штаб семи організаторів кампанії почав зазивати до списку своїх прихильників, запрошуючи їх вперше зустрітися особисто, щоб подивитися, як Бето вітає їх на відео в прямому ефірі. Більше 200 погодилися провести збори 13 січня, а також тисячі інших. Коли активізувалися посилання у форматі Facebook Live, глядачі побачили на своєму дивані у вітальні О'Рурке, що звучить на акустичній гітарі, коли його сім'я співала разом з «Amarillo by Morning» Джорджем Пролозом.

О'Рурк відпустив трьох своїх дітей баскетбол зовні, вбиваючи hootenanny vibe. Зараз у режимі розмови в каміні, О'Рурк розповідав трохи про історію свого будинку в Ель-Пасо, його обгрунтування в «двонаціональному співтоваристві», яке охоплювало Ріо-Гранде до Сьюдад-Хуареса, і дев'ять місяців, які він провів, стукаючи по дверях сусідів під час його першого балотування до Конгресу. Це була ця прекрасна, потужна, повільна хвиля дверей за дверима, що дозволила нам з'єднатися з тими, кого ми хотіли служити і представляти. Так що я не збираюся просити вас робити що-небудь, що я не зробив, – сказав О'Рурк, коли його дружина, Емі, повернулася в кадр. – Не хвилюйтеся, якщо ви ніколи раніше не робили цього. (19659006) Після того, як O'Rourke закінчив роботу, хости роздають листи, де учасники зареєструвалися для розміщення власних банків або зміщення агітації. Польові організатори перевели свою увагу на тренування хостів, зустрічі з ними окремо або в невеликих групах для навчання, щоб вони могли перевернути ролі – волонтери, які беруть на себе обов'язки керівництва та штатні працівники, що пропонують лише підтримку. Цей підхід був настільки незвичайним, що він напружував їх систему організації подій, програмне забезпечення, розроблене компанією Blue State Digital, фірмою, відомою своєю роботою над кампаніями Обами. Оскільки база даних намагалася обробляти події на чолі з волонтерами, а не співробітниками, кампанія побачила цілі події, а RSVP, подані для них, зникли в цифровому ефірі. Це стало б шаблоном, коли кампанія зростала, оскільки програмне забезпечення, призначене для більш традиційних кампаній, підкорялося вимогам підходу з надмірною шкалою.

Коли події були успішно запущені, організатори персоналу намагалися набрати учасників для того, щоб керувати наступним. Вони взяли б список самовизначених прихильників, звузили їх до сусідніх поштових індексів і почали телефонувати. “Ми працювали весь тиждень, щоб отримати сім добровольців для кожного з наших індивідуумів, прогулянки по блоках, а потім ми провели весь четвер і п'ятницю, роблячи підтвердження. Як сотні і сотні і сотні телефонних дзвінків, щоб отримати пару людей, – сказала Кетрін Пінеда, яка стала регіональним директором на південно-східному Техасі. "Ми працювали дуже важко для кожного волонтера".

Процес породжував нових волонтерів-лідерів, але темпами, які були занадто сумні, щоб задовольнити очікуваний попит. Маліц любив говорити: «ми повинні вдарити по домах», а існуюча система була більше схожа на сингли – прогрес, але незадовільно поступовий. "Ми були просто дуже розчаровані темпами зростання", сказав Маліц. "Це просто не стає достатньо великим".

Імператив завжди полягав у тому, щоб оптимізувати кампанію для масштабу, а не точності. До початку літа команда поля зробила велику зміну, звільнивши організаторів з географічної бази і отримавши від них зобов'язання по підбору персоналу для блочних прогулянок і телефонних банків, які перебувають у державі, в дусі тактики розповсюдженої організації, розпочатої Сандерсом. Їхнім інструментом була телефонна система Beto Dialer, розроблена фірмою Relay, яка поставила респондентів у чергу, щоб звести до мінімуму секунди, на які чекав очікуючий відповідь живого голосу. час роботи але на витрати на підзвітність розмито: більше не може бути відповідальність за погано відвідані події прямо розміщені на найближчого організатора. І для деяких організаторів, це було різке регулювання, щоб закликати незнайомця в Лаббок один момент, а інший в Сан-Маркос наступний, все в той час як волонтер в Тексаркані набирає людей, щоб відвідати прогулянку біля вашого офісу.

Польова програма Бето для Сенату регулярно зверталася до методів, які більшість тактиків кампанії знайдуть безцільними. Там не було механізму для маршрутизації добровольців в невідвідані райони, тому волонтери, ймовірно, ходити ті ж блоки знову і знову. Польова група також відкинула досягнення в аналітиці даних, які сучасні кампанії зазвичай використовують для того, щоб скоротити коло виборців, з якими вони взаємодіють, і, можливо, пристосувати свої комунікації до різних груп. Коли кампанія нарешті найняла фірму для роботи над проектами з даними, вона обрала TargetSmart, яка служить головним чином оптовим постачальником даних виборців, а не консультантами, які працюють над проектами на замовлення для клієнтів. Кейсі, менеджер кампанії, був настільки чутливий до ідеї, що вона могла б платити за те, що порушило б обіцянку О'Рурка, щоб не найняти опитувальників, що TargetSmart почав посилатися на виклики дослідження, необхідні для будь-якого мікро-орієнтованого проекту, як “модель навчання”

Аж до серпня ціль кампанії полягала в тому, щоб зв'язатися з усіма, крім найнадійніших республіканських виборців у державі, подивитися, чи підтримують вони Бето, а потім розвивати їх як потенційних волонтерів. Жорсткі республіканці були виключені лише для збереження існуючих прихильників з потенційно неприємних взаємодій. "Буквально, це може бути такий поганий досвід", сказав Маліц. Тільки тоді кампанія звузила діапазон потенційних цілей для техасців, які визначили, що вони можуть підтримати O'Rourke.

З самого початку Wysong планував навколо скромного бюджету по всій країні: «Здавалося, що якщо ми можемо отримати 20 мільйонів доларів, ми, напевно, можемо зависати», – сказав він, – це вимагатиме, щоб операція на місцях була дуже швидкою і дуже дешевий. Але динамічна цифрова присутність O'Rourke виявилася ідеальною для залучення грошей. Національні партійні комітети все ще пишуть його, як занадто багато часу для фінансування, але маленькі доларові донори потрапили до кандидатури О'Рурка, особливо тому, що він асоціювався з позиціями – імпічментом Трампа, скасуванням ДВС, уподібненням системи кримінальної юстиції. Джиму Кроу, якого мало хто з інших претендентів на сенат Демократичної партії був готовий доторкнутися.

Кампанія підняла чудові $ 10 мільйонів у другому кварталі року, що вдвічі більше, ніж у Крус. Wysong повернувся до Malitz з проханням: Чи може він підготувати план для того, що персонал поля буде виглядати в чотири рази більше, ніж поточний розмір? Раніше в 2018 році Маліц відвертав кваліфікованих заявників, яких він хотів найняти. Тепер він швидко став відчайдушним для будь-кого, незалежно від родоводу або набору навичок. 29 вересня Маліц встановив де-факто відмову від нових працівників, дійшовши висновку, що «ми зросли до такої великої кількості, як ми збиралися отримати». До того ж він мав 821 співробітника під його командуванням. (Це була приблизно одна п'ята розміру загальнонаціонального фонду оплати праці Обами, і значна частка цих працівників була на робочих місцях, не пов'язаних з роботою на місцях.)

Крім того, армія волонтерів неможливо розраховувати. На початку жовтня Маліц вирішив, що настав час припинити полювання на потенційних співчуваючих Бето і зробити неминучий перехід до виборів. Всі майбутні контакти будуть тільки з людьми, які вважаються прихильниками, по одному за раз, у найбільш експансивному стані в континентальній частині США


У неділю, 21 жовтня, Маліц зустрівся Бонд на сніданок у ресторані Hideaway, який приєднаний до одного з численних готелів, які проїжджають в міждержавній автомагістралі 35 в Південному Остіні. У попередній день обидві взяли невелику екскурсію по декількох з спливаючих вікон, тимчасових офісів, в яких волонтерам було запропоновано створити власні властивості. Більшість з майже 800 населених пунктів по всьому штату опинилися в будинках, для яких кампанія встановила кілька передумов: спеціальний простір, відкритий для незнайомців, доступна ванна кімната і Wi-Fi. Коли Маліц і Бонд помітили, що на карті спливаючих вікон було зафіксовано притулок, вони були заінтриговані.

«Це бар Ramada Inn?» – запитав Бонд, коли Маліц витягнув пікап на стоянку.

Вони увійшли в саундтрек до чотирьохскладової блюзової групи і пройшли по ресторану з почуттям дива. Канцелярія Бето для Сенату була заправлена ​​в невелику кімнату, розташовану за рогом від бару, оснащеного технологією кампанії: безліч Chromebook, дешевих мобільних телефонів, пари принтерів. Було заплановано, що волонтери будуть відкриті 12 годин на день. Коли Маліц вперше відвідав, напередодні, доброволець, який керував офісом, нервово повідомив його, що, можливо, потрібно скоротити вечірню зміну банку. Сусідні кімнати, пояснив він, планували провести обід на дитинстві та святкування дня народження, які, як очікується, мають індійські танці.

Both Malitz and Bond wanted to fulfill a canvass shift in person over the weekend, and Sunday afternoon—when large numbers of Texans could be expected to be at home watching pro football—was the most appealing time. When they went online to sign up for one, both said they would do so from the Hideaway. Malitz arrived for breakfast wearing all black except for the white panel of his Beto for Senate trucker hat. Over breakfast tacos and vegetable hash, he and Bond reviewed the weekend’s activity.

They had set a statewide goal of contacting 200,000 people over the course of the final weekend before voters would get their first chance to cast a ballot. Texas’ early-voting rules include an 11-day period during which voters can show up at any number of designated centers in their home county; it starts two weeks before Election Day and ends several days before. The previous day had ended with 89,208 total contacts—an increase from the previous Saturday’s 70,000 but still short of the pace they’d set. The goals were conceived rather arbitrarily—ambitious enough to offer motivation, plausible enough that they could be met—but they instilled a sense of drama and gave the weekend a narrative arc. Malitz ordered a cold-brew coffee and checked his phone again. By 11:22 a.m., only partway through what was typically the weekend’s slowest shift, canvassers had knocked on 8,252 doors statewide since sunrise. Two months earlier, the campaign had celebrated breaking 20,000 in an entire day.

Malitz expected his field staff to sign up for volunteer shifts, instructing them “we will eat our own dog food,” and in that spirit several of his colleagues had come to the Hideaway that morning, as well. As she waited for the noon shift to begin, Emily Guzman Sufrin opened her laptop to monitor some of the conversations that volunteers were already having with voters. Sufrin’s prior job had been far from politics, as a curatorial assistant helping to put on the Whitney Biennial contemporary-art exhibition in New York, but she had grown frustrated with the small real-world impact she could have at a museum. She made plans to attend law school at the University of Texas, and while waiting to enroll, volunteered for O’Rourke’s campaign. Within weeks she was offered a job. Sixty percent of the field organizers that would be hired had never before been involved in an electoral campaign; three-quarters had not worked as a staffer on one. “We didn't hire people with political experience,” said Malitz. “We just hired true believers who are brand-new to politics.”

Sufrin was repeatedly promoted, and by early summer had become the campaign’s deputy distributed-organizing director. That put her in charge of the text-messaging unit, which had started the previous November and reached full capacity much more quickly than the phone-banking or block-walking programs. Federal laws forbid automated texting, so the button to send each message has to be pressed manually. The campaign loads in mobile numbers from one of its databases, and a volunteer, who commits to a shift of 1,000 messages at a time, customizes them to feature her name (“Hi, this is Emily from the Beto for Senate campaign”) and then taps her laptop to fire off dozens per minute.

The campaign found that a texter was 10 times more likely to get a response than a caller is to complete a conversation, and that’s where the management challenge comes in. Someone who asks a stranger via text message if he or she supports Beto can invite ripostes that are wild and varied—and an exchange potentially without end. “We’re not working on persuasion,” Sufrin would instruct her team. “Respond, but don’t find a pen pal.”

Sufrin logged onto the Slack channel where the all-volunteer texting force traded notes on their work. They had organized themselves into a self-governing colony, with a variety of different official roles, with power derived from the ability of volunteer managers to surveil what their charges were doing at every moment. “We don’t know what people are saying on the phones or at the doors, but we have a unique ability to look in,” she said. Thus far on Sunday morning, things seemed to be going smoothly. The biggest troubleshooting question from one texter: “Somebody just told me they’re voting for Willie Nelson. What should I do?”


Malitz left the Hideaway and drove 10 minutes to a residential neighborhood known as Franklin Park. As soon as he parked, his phone buzzed with a call from O’Rourke himself. Malitz paced the block as he provided the candidate with an update on the weekend’s field activity. “He’s done a lot of this,” Malitz said as he grabbed a clipboard from the backseat of his truck before heading down Atascosa Drive on foot. His stroll was accompanied by an ominous soundtrack: the grating calliope of an ice-cream truck and military planes zipping overhead as part of the flyover at a nearby Formula One track. On a nice autumnal Saturday afternoon, no one appeared to be home, except at the one address where two freshly opened bottles of Corona sat near the doorstep and inside could be heard the telltale sounds of someone avoiding an unwanted visitor.

Malitz clearly wasn’t the only person who had recently walked these streets in vain pursuit of voters. At one home, Malitz came across a get-out-the-vote leaflet left by a canvasser from Jolt Texas, an independent group recently formed to increase Latino participation. Malitz studied the Jolt piece, which pictured its endorsees, all Democrats, including O’Rourke and gubernatorial nominee Lupe Valdez. He appreciated the irony that the independent-expenditure committee was distributing glossy photos of his candidate, while the Beto for Senate handbills piled in his palm included no material about its namesake or his program—but lots of dense detail about how exactly to cast a ballot.

At his seventh door, Malitz found his first target, a 25-year-old Latina named Linette. She proved a puzzling case: She insisted she was certain to vote, even though some of the basics seemed foreign to her. “How is it?” she asked Malitz. “Is it a quiz or something? Do you write in multiple questions? Or it’s just like Beto or whoever?” Linette had not recognized O’Rourke’s name when her visitor first mentioned it. Malitz responded only that “Beto is a Democratic member of Congress who is going for U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz.” Once she said she preferred Democrats, he didn’t bother trying to shape her choice. Instead he focused on the rudiments of voting: where and when to go, what documents to bring, the differences between voting early and on Election Day.

At the last stop on his route, Malitz asked the woman who answered the doorbell if she was named Kim. The woman didn’t respond directly. “Se habla español?” she inquired.

“Oh, no hablo,” Malitz responded sheepishly. “Lo siento.”

The woman’s name was Rocío, and she and Malitz went back and forth for several minutes typing into a translation app on her phone, with an intermittent OK to signal understanding. Frustrated by the slow pace, Malitz dialed Sufrin. “Can I put you on the phone with a voter to have a conversation in Spanish?” he asked her.

Malitz turned on the speakerphone and introduced the two. Rocío told Sufrin it was her first election season, but that she was not a citizen. When Sufrin told her she could help motivate her acquaintances, Rocío said her entire family, too, had resident status. “You can’t vote, obviously, because it’s not legal,” Sufrin told her in Spanish. “But you can volunteer. We need help.”

Walking from door to door did not appeal to Rocío, but she responded more favorably to the suggestion of joining a Spanish-language phone bank. Malitz wrote down the address of the campaign headquarters in North Austin, and she promised to be there the next morning for a training at 9 a.m.

When that hour arrived, Malitz and Sufrin were rallying colleagues for the brief trip to Austin Community College, the early-voting location closest to the campaign headquarters. After casting their ballots, they joined together for a series of hugs and selfies. “It’s been a really long time,” muttered Emily Sufrin, in tears. “God, I hope we win.” As they exited the student center to take a group picture outside, one hint of their work thus far had become apparent: What had been a line of 18 people waiting to vote upon their arrival was now about 75 deep. Within a few hours, a video of the line snaking through the atrium had begun to circulate online—part of a swelling signal of what appeared to be a major turnout surge in Texas’ largest cities.


It became quickly clear that this was no ordinary midterm election in Texas. Over the first week of the early-voting period, turnout exceeded the number of people who had voted early in all of 2014; in some areas, the figures were comparable to totals from the 2012 presidential election. Republican strategists didn’t panic at what seemed like good news for Democrats. Over the course of the year, Ted Cruz’s advisers had been revising their turnout estimates upward, after their polls showed high interest and intensity among prospective voters. Their data told them that increases in midterm turnout would not necessarily help O’Rourke: Analysis showed a majority of the 8 million or so previously inactive voting-age Texans were statistically more likely to resemble Republicans. “This idea that nonvoters are Democrats is nuts,” said Dave Carney, the chief strategist to Governor Greg Abbott.

When it came to mobilizing turnout on the Republican side, Cruz was heavily relying on Abbott, who as governor had the more formidable Texas political machine. Abbott never really shut down his campaign organization after being elected in 2014 and could raise money for it more freely under Texas laws than a Senate candidate could. For 18 months, even though his reelection was never in doubt, Abbott had been placing field organizers in locations selected to boost the prospects of legislative candidates. “It just made more sense for us to push our people there and know that it would be done in a good way, than it would be to try and compete with them,” said Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager in 2016 and his chief strategist last year.

Roe’s strategy relied on the assumption that it wouldn’t help Cruz to mount an aggressive defense of his record. “Our entire plan was to make it about Beto as long as possible,” said Roe. “Just let the guy go.” What shocked Roe was how readily O’Rourke obliged. The challenger made no attempts to capture defectors from the unpopular incumbent and only the most diffuse, gauzy efforts to swing undecided voters his way. Over the course of the year, the seeming uninterest from O’Rourke’s campaign in that project of persuasion went, in the eyes of Cruz’s advisers, from a matter of curiosity to befuddlement to disdain. Roe, who despite being one of the Republican Party’s most coveted strategists keeps a sideline as a baseball umpire, likened the competition to Little League baseball.

When O’Rourke’s team released his Plan to Win in mid-September, with its bold ambition to remake the electorate by drawing out a million new voters, Roe studied it long enough to know he did not need to take it seriously. The numerical goal ran afoul of a Roe axiom to distrust round numbers on activity reports. (“Always add a 12 or something to it and make it look real,” one adviser had advised junior staffers.) “I think if they would have used a number that was more realistic, it would have meant more to me,” said Roe. That one integer, in his view, obscured a more monumental grandiosity. “The theory of his case is that he has to turn out Democrats and unusual voters, and the Republicans can’t turn out,” he said. “Our theory of the case is: We need every Republican to go vote.”

By contrast with O’Rourke, Texas Republicans hewed to a familiar model of what a sophisticated, well-drilled modern campaign ought to look like, prizing precision and efficiency. The governor’s advisers had launched what they called Abbott University, a series of four-hour seminars led by two full-time trainers and usually conducted in tandem with local Republican clubs. They’d excised the use of phone calls for voter contact after conducting a round of experiments during the 2014 campaign that called into question their efficiency. They did still send volunteers to doorsteps, which required more work but had more impact on voter behavior. Their list of targets had been shaped by statistical models that pinpointed unreliable midterm voters open to backing the governor, or soft supporters whom he needed to shore up. Among the firm Abbott supporters, Cruz’s campaign had identified 386,000 likely voters who were uncommitted in the Senate race, and made them a focal point of its digital persuasion.

Roe’s opinion of his opponent’s tactical sophistication was shaped in large part by the fact that an O’Rourke canvasser had knocked on the door of his Houston home. (He was away at the time.) It was a matter of public record that Roe had cast a ballot in that year’s Republican primary. A campaign that didn’t know that fact lacked basic database skills; one that knew it and visited his home anyway was too desperate to intelligently remake the electorate the way its Plan to Win said would be necessary. “If there was an organizational theory behind the way that they’re approaching it, then I would worry more,” Roe said. “He doesn't have the size and strength of an operation to sustain this.”


At the end of one week of early voting, O’Rourke’s data team projected it was winning 50.1 percent of the votes that had been cast already, although when models distributed the remaining votes, it pushed his expected total lower. Those numbers didn’t feed a sense of optimism so much as they staved off despair. If O’Rourke had been doomed to the steep loss many pundits had predicted, the early-vote data would likely have looked much worse. “We’re doing what we need to,” Malitz said.

But the uncharacteristically large numbers of Texans who voted early posed new problems for O’Rourke’s field team. Populous counties released daily lists of those voters who had cast ballots, and each night data analysts would strike them from O’Rourke’s list of 5.5 million turnout targets. That number shrinking was good news—fewer voters left to reach—but those who remained would become harder to reach. Neighborhoods once dense with lots of doors to knock on would start to thin out, turning them increasingly inefficient to canvass and frustrating those who spent a lot more time walking without human interaction. “If we get to a point where we completed let’s say 90 percent of our universe, we create a horrible, horrible volunteer experience for the canvassers,” Malitz said.

How to solve what became known as the “shitty-turf problem” vexed Malitz’s team. Shutting down the pop-up offices near the well-trodden turf might push volunteers to go farther afield, but it could also kill off what were, by definition, some of the highest-functioning field offices. Already local managers took the initiative to organize a caravan of 28 volunteers showing up for shifts in Houston Heights, an area populated by younger white activist-types, and send them 10 minutes east to Kashmere Gardens, a largely African-American neighborhood chockablock with untouched targets. On a nightly conference call with volunteers—as many as 300 at a time dialing in to hear a mix of pep talk and tactical update—Malitz suggested that pop-up managers be trained to send volunteers to picked-over areas in automotive pairs. With one driver and a passenger who could quickly exit to knock doors, such “sweeper teams” could also serve put to work canvassers wary about being out alone, especially at night.

With another big weekend of canvassing ahead, Malitz suggested releasing all the doors that had already been knocked but whose residents had yet to vote, back into the pool of targets. He mused, too, about setting a trigger, so that once, say, a precinct hit, say, 75 percent coverage all those visited doors would be automatically made available again for future canvassers.

A field program with a more traditional approach could have avoided such complications through an orderly parceling out of canvass assignments to areas with the greatest density of unknocked doors. But the campaign’s distributed-organizing system, with its loose, untargeted nature, left the field program still bent toward flexibility and growth over precision. Even as he encouraged that fast growth, Wysong worried that it could become too profligate. “How can we make that system more efficient?” he asked. “And if we can’t get all the inefficiencies out of it, how do we turn those inefficiencies away from costs to the campaign?”

The way of applying this calculus came by puzzling out an answer to a seemingly simple question: Does this net votes? There were many things a campaign did with sensible motives—an aspiration toward perfectionism or thoroughness, perhaps, or consideration of staff or volunteer esteem—that did not necessarily result in improved performance on election night. At a staff summit in late August, Malitz had introduced the concept, an invitation to cast a coldly economistic eye on the impact and value of what they did every day. “Net votes” became a mantra for field organizers, chanted at staff meetings and also subject of its own Slack emoji.

Staples of campaign organization were unsentimentally discarded. Malitz decided to scrap the whole reporting structure in which field organizers provided productivity metrics on shifts and contacts every three hours to their managers, those managers consolidated the numbers for their regional directors, and so on. As organizing director, Malitz would now have no idea which sectors were most productive, or where a given staffer might be slacking off. But by scrapping all the reporting obligations, he could free up the time of managers to solve problems rather than constantly monitoring for them. “It was a whole lot of process that made us feel busy,” he said, “but didn’t really translate to netting votes.”

As Election Day grew near, calculations about net-vote efficiency grew even more ruthless. Offering voters transportation to polling places was a venerable part of any get-out-the-vote program, and O’Rourke’s campaign reflexively set up a drive-to-the-polls program, but from the outset it seemed to exist as an obligation rather than an opportunity. Very few voters were reliant on campaign-supplied rides, but the organization necessary to take and track their requests was remarkably demanding. On October 29, after weeks of unsatisfying deliberations, Malitz decided to shut down the drive-to-the-polls program entirely—a decision that risked blowback from voters who took the service for granted, or local party activists who saw it as a dereliction of a basic duty. “This is so we can net more votes doing things that are more efficient than offering rides,” Malitz explained to his team at their midday meeting.

He already knew what he had in mind, turning the conversation toward the weekend ahead of them, the final one of the campaign. He had puzzled for days over what kind of goal to set for the weekend, an arbitrary figure that gained totemic power among active supporters through its repetition in email blasts, social-media posts and the nightly volunteer conference coals. Malitz proposed a goal of 1 million doors, spread across the final four days of the election, from dawn on Saturday to poll-closing time on Tuesday.

The previous weekend, the campaign had fallen well short of its weekend goal of 400,000 doors. At least some of the blame could be attributed to an outage of the canvassing app Polis, which had kept volunteers idle over much of the Sunday afternoon canvass shift. As with the event-planning snafu earlier in the year, O’Rourke’s team discovered only through agonizing experience the extent of the technological catch-22 they had created for themselves: The proven tools of modern electioneering weren’t built for the kind of campaign that O'Rourke was trying to run, while those better-suited to his abnormal tactics had never been tested under pressure at such scale. (“We hadn’t accounted for them having 5,000 people in the same park all heading out to knock doors at the same time,” Polis CEO Kendall Tucker said later. “It was a real challenge.”) “Not hitting goals sucks,” Katelyn Coghlan wrote to field staff in a Slack message the next morning. “Always be honest with the volunteers about these things. It’s OK to tell them that Polis broke because we knocked so many doors so quickly, that it sucked, that it’s fixed, and that we need them to keep knocking.”

One million doors was by any measure a staggering objective over a four-day stretch. As soon as it left his mouth, the number was met by gasps and giggles. “Honestly, no one is going to know whether we hit or miss the goal, because the news out of Tuesday will be the election,” he conceded to his staff. “The point of goals is to motivate people.”

That staggering goal offered context for the most significant topic of discussion about the final weekend. Wysong told Malitz that O’Rourke was willing to spend those days doing whatever the field department decided would best help reach their goals, so Malitz put it to his team: What should we do with Beto?

The least imaginative answer would be a series of get-out-the-vote rallies to stoke supporters just before Election Day and catalyze local media attention, online buzz and word of mouth among others. A late September appearance in Austin with Willie Nelson, during which O’Rourke joined the headliner on several songs, drew a reported 55,000 people—more than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump were reported to have had at any of their 2016 rallies. With an impressive roster of celebrity fans, including LeBron James and Béyoncé, it was not difficult to imagine O’Rourke replicating or exceeding the Austin attendance in a number of Texas’ large cities.

The field department had leapt at the offer to control the candidate’s schedule at the start of the early-vote period. They had developed “Vote With Beto” events near early-vote centers and college campuses when they hosted mobile polling places. In those cases, the campaign was using the candidate’s appeal as bait, drawing supporters out to a location at a time when they could be trapped by enthusiasm or social expectation to immediately line up for a ballot. But there were no opportunities for Texans to vote in person over the final weekend. Malitz resisted the opportunity to build events around O’Rourke then, fearing they would draw supporters away from the more productive activity of knocking on doors.

He invited his team to generate ideas for how O’Rourke could be used to foster productive volunteer activity rather than detract from it. He could lead a conference call or livestream to kick off each canvass shift, an incentive for volunteers to complete their shifts and return to pop-up locations for a communal experience, or attend select canvass kickoffs in person. What if he livestreamed his own canvassing, and turned it into a statewide game, where volunteers competed to knock more doors than Beto? He could read off names of people who committed to volunteer shifts, or critique others’ canvassing techniques. Supporters could be invited to submit their friends’ phone numbers, as part of a lottery where Beto would make recruitment calls to them, all on the livestream.

Malitz wrote each of the ideas down in a notebook, immediately dismissing a number of them according to a net-votes calculus. The various livestream ideas were appealing, but too much activity—in the form of games, contest, entertainment—could induce supporters to spend their days as spectators rather than participants. Events involving O’Rourke himself could certainly draw out new volunteers, but if the campaign pulled them all to a single location it lacked a mechanism to efficiently send them back out to the neighborhoods where it hoped to see them canvass. If he went anywhere supporters could find him, he would also draw a large media contingent, which would put logistical demands on his field staff. O’Rourke would be less bait than a decoy, drawing people and resources that could be put to far more efficient use elsewhere. “I’m going to lob all these over to Wysong and see what he thinks is a good idea,” said Malitz.

Wysong decided to take the country’s biggest new political celebrity and effectively send him underground for the biggest weekend of the year. When O’Rourke began Saturday morning by turning on Facebook Live from a phone affixed to the dashboard of his minivan, the Dallas skyline was visible through the rear windshield. But the candidate said nothing more about his destination. “The band is back, we’re in the van, and we’re gonna go do some block-walking,” O’Rourke said, from behind a pair of garishly orange sunglasses handed out by the fast-food chain Whataburger. (A total of 46,000 people ended up watching this part of O’Rourke’s day on Facebook Live.) Joined by his wife and a pair of staffers, with his children and other family members trailing in another vehicle, O’Rourke never identified where in Dallas he spent the day canvassing; later in the day he drove to Plano, and knocked on doors there.

Only at night, after the final shift of the day had ended, did O’Rourke attend a public event, a Blockwalk Celebration at a Dallas record store, where field organizers would welcome those who volunteered on Saturday and try to recommit them for shifts on Sunday and beyond. The next day he did the same thing in Austin and San Antonio. It was a perverse manifestation of the mobilization-over-persuasion dynamic that had grounded much of the campaign’s strategy since its outset. The only way for local stations to feature the candidate on their evening newscasts that weekend, typically an obsession of communications staffers seeking a last chance to reach late-deciding voters, was to use grainy, message-free homemade video of him walking suburban sidewalks.

A few people in the field room kept a muted Facebook Live window open on their computers while tending to other tasks, occasionally sharing updates with colleagues on O’Rourke’s canvassing movements. “The beauty of what’s happening now is it doesn’t have any effect on the field operation,” said Malitz, “so we can do our thing."


When the votes were counted on election night, the final tally showed O’Rourke had lost by just over 2 points. It was a far narrower margin than most pundits and handicappers had anticipated, which gave rise to a sense both inside and outside the campaign that even in electoral defeat O’Rourke could claim to have accomplished something remarkable.

Since Election Day, Wysong has been making the rounds of Democratic Party elites to discuss the 2018 campaign and whether it represents a useful foundation for O’Rourke to mount a presidential bid in 2020.

Total turnout was above 8.3 million, a number much closer to what would be exp ecte d in a presidential election than a midterm year. (More Texans voted in the 2018 Senate race than in the 2008 presidential election, although the state has had a fast-growing population over that decade.) “Did we accomplish historical voter turnout in Texas? Так. Was it enough to put us over the top? No,” Malitz shrugged two days after the election, as his team was emptying out its offices before leases expired. “It’s politics in the age of Trump. Historical data only means so much.”

O’Rourke’s advisers are nearing a more precise verdict about their performance. Last month, they received updated electoral rolls that indicated, at a personal level, how many of the 5.6 million voters they had named as turnout targets actually cast ballots. When he had toured the state giving his Plan to Win presentation in September, Malitz had told supporters that if they brought 1 million new Democratic voters into the midterm electorate they should be able to win. The updated voter rolls are likely to demonstrate that goal was met, and that it still was not enough to win. If that is the case, it is the campaign’s strategy, rather than its tactics, that deserve scrutiny.

Wysong has indicated that he recognizes some of the methods that defined O’Rourke’s unconventional campaign style will not translate to the type of presidential nominating competition that awaits him if he chooses to run for president. (Wysong could not be reached this week to discuss those deliberations, or the prospect of another Senate bid for O’Rourke against Republican incumbent John Cornyn.) Primary campaigns, especially those with as large and variegated a field as Democrats expect, have to be overwhelmingly about persuasion, and the elevation of small differences into the stuff of voter choices. Even if O’Rourke insists a pollster won’t tell him which positions to stake out, it is hard to imagine intelligently drawing sharp distinctions across potentially two dozen rivals without one who can quantify their strengths and vulnerabilities. Campaigns will want to use data and modeling tools to “slice and dice” the electorate, to use Bond’s pejorative term, to identify which voters fit in their coalitions, and how best to engage with them.

Wysong could still decide to empower his field team to develop the type of big-organizing operation that thrived in Texas, with its preference for flexibility and scale over precision and accountability. It would be well-suited to grow quickly at moments when O’Rourke’s candidacy surges, and the rejection of geographic hierarchies could make a squadron of well-drilled Texas volunteer callers and texters useful reaching voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina and California. But it would also demand patience that a primary candidate, constantly needing to justify his existence to party elites and media, may not be able to afford.

“It takes true belief in what we're building, and in the power of organizing to stick with it, knowing that there’s a hockey stick that you're not going to see until the end,” Malitz reflected just before Election Day. “The premise of investing in a big field program is you’re not going to see results that are commensurate with the scale of your investment until the very end, when it’s too late to change anything.”

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