Editors Note: TFS Editor-in-Chief Kartik Krishnaiyer who is on the Biden/Harris Campaign did not contribute to this story
For most people working on a political campaign, there is one certainty in politics. Once the polls close, you are no longer employed. As soon as the announcer on the television says “the polls are now closed in (insert state name here)”, you are no longer on the clock, and you will never be clocking in again. Yes, you might do some extra work to get that campaign “bonus” at the end of the day (which is the extra money in the campaign till that gets distributed among the other campaign workers), but you are basically done.
Why do I mention this? Because electoral politics is a business that has a very hard deadline with no extensions. All of the work that you put in is done prior to that deadline. The only way to see if you succeed or fail is by waiting for the results to come in. You can’t make any tweeks afterward. What’s done is done. That is why the work that is done before, and particularly on, Election Day is so vital. There are no “do overs”.
In the last few days, we have been hearing a lot about cannibalization and super voters, particularly in regards to Republicans voters in Florida. Interestingly enough, we were hearing the same thing about Democratic voters early in the vote-by-mail process. The narrative seems to change depending on who is speaking, and if it favors their side. But from a campaign perspective, understanding what is going on is very straightforward.
First, what is the argument? Well, according to “experts”, Republican super-voters (who are Republicans who have voted in the previous four general elections, also known as 4/4s) are a higher percentage of the current Republican vote in the State of Florida at this moment. Basically, many Democrats are arguing that this is a good situation for the Democrats, as most of the diehard Republicans have already voted, and that Election Day for the Republicans might not be as good as in previous elections due to the super-voters already voting.
If this is true, this is actually bad news for the Democrats, not the Republicans.
Before I get into the explanations, let me throw out some more terms so that you can follow me. In addition to 4/4 voters, we have 3/4 voters, who are voters who voted in three of the last for general elections. 2/4 is two of the last four general elections, and so on.
We also have a +/0/- system of identifying voters (though this method changes depending on campaigns). Basically, when a volunteer calls a voter or knocks on a door, they are identifying voters. They ask them if they support their candidate, oppose their candidate, or are undecided. If they support their candidate, they enter “+’ into the system. If not, they enter “-” into the system. Voters assigned “0” are usually undecided. Again, some states have a 1-4 or 1-5 system, but they all measure the same thing, which is the level of support for a candidate or a party.
So, with all that laid out, let’s look at why the Republicans are in a better position than the Democrats from a campaign’s point of view. Let’s say that we are five days out until Election Day (which we literally are as of this article). If we are the Republicans, we are happy that most of our 4/4 voters, which are our super-voters, have already voted. We no longer have to convince them to get to the polls or to cast their ballots. The diehard supporters are in. Instead, we can start using our resources to get more 3/4 and 2/4 voters, who we identified as “+” voters, out to the polls. Additionally, we can work on convincing more 4/4 and 3/4 voters who identify as “0” voters to vote for our candidate (though most 4/4 voters are already decided voters). In this situation, we can spread or resources and try to expand our electorate. We don’t have to go chasing after super-voters only five days out from Election Day.
Now, let’s say we are the Democrats, and we have less 4/4 voters turning out. What does this mean? It means that Democrats are chasing after voters that should have already voted by now. Yes, Democrats could rely on them just turnout out since, well, they are super-voters. But if there are less 4/4s voting, then that means that your diehard support isn’t in the bag yet. In this case, you are wasting resources,reminding (or convincing because of COVID) your diehard supporters to vote, especially if they intend to vote-by-mail. Also, you cannot use your resources to go after 3/4 or 2/4 “+” voters, or 3/4 “0” voters, because they are currently being wasted on 4/4 super-voters. So, as you can see, campaigns and field work are all about resource management because, you know, your job ends at 7 PM on November 3rd.
To compound problems, a lot of Democratic 4/4 voters might intend to vote by mail thinking that the postmark date on the ballot is the most important thing. Not so. Ballots must arrive by 7 PM on Election Day in order to be counted (with the exceptions of overseas ballots). With that, how many potential Biden votes are going to be thrown out from super-voters purely because they weren’t knowledgeable about the voting deadline? Since Republicans are mostly voting in person, this isn’t as much of a problem for them. Again, resource management is important.
When looking at super-voters, it’s important to understand how the campaigns look at these numbers. Yes, one might think that GOP votes on Election Day will deflate compared to previous elections. However, that’s just speculation. But when it comes to resource management, the situation isn’t speculative, but very real.