Three delegates may not sound like a lot, but when there are only 4,000 delegates seated at the convention, it’s a big deal. Nowhere was this more evident than in the caucus of Hatch’s main opponent, Dan Liljenquist. Liljenquist sought to be a delegate to his own convention, but Hatch supporters outnumbered Liljenquist supporters in his caucus by a single vote. It was a clean sweep of the delegates for Hatch in that precinct and an embarrassing media moment for Liljenquist.
Microtargeting, voter identification and caucus advisors
Microtargeting is an overused word among political consultants. Its use has even surpassed commonly used consulting terms like leverage, synergy and dovetail. But there are a few consultants who really do microtarget— who know when to do it and how to apply it in a campaign. The Hatch campaign had a data model made of their known supporters who had never attended caucuses before but planned to attend for the frst time. They called those people “rookies.” It applied that predictive model to the statewide vote list to score and identify more rookies.
This group of people made up the Hatch campaign’s caucus attendance growth pool, and they were the micro targeted focus of an intense marketing program. With any good campaign, there’s a healthy amount of voter identification. Caucus campaigns are no exception.
The Hatch campaign prioritized voter identification efforts among the microtargeted populations to strengthen
its base of support. The effort was so extensive that in some caucuses where the campaign was short of its support goals among Republican primary voter populations, it had to move into identification efforts of active Republicans who only vote in general elections.
Still, finding a supporter wasn’t the end of the process. Supporters were then handed off to a staff of caucus advisers. This group had the most difficult job of the entire campaign. It was important for them to become trusted advisers when they gave election advice, just as it’s important for a financial adviser to be trusted when he or she offers investment advice. The voter needs to know their caucus adviser’s name and recognize the phone number on the caller ID.
In the case of the Hatch campaign, advisers helped resolve concerns, explained the caucus process, kept voters motivated to attend and mitigated the effects of lies and rumors spread by the opposing campaigns. They also identified people that could run to be a delegate and helped those folks craft a message to get elected. When caucus day arrived, the caucus advisers were calling, sending personal email reminders and texting those people they had been talking to and building a relationship with for months.
In a new world where information flow in politics is largely fueled by social media, campaigns know almost immediately whether or not a strategy worked. On caucus night, the facebook. com/stopbobbennett page was rolling with success stories of clean delegate sweeps during and after individual caucuses. The Hatch campaign was no different. But in the case of Hatch, the people who had boasted of their election as an anti-Bennett delegate two years earlier were now complaining about how their caucus meeting was overrun by “blue hairs” in support of Hatch. The result: Orrin Hatch came in first at convention, just shy of the 60 percent delegate vote and then cruised to a landslide victory in the primary and general elections, where he benefited from large financial and name identification advantages.
These two campaigns are significant case studies in that, by all accounts, both senators were destined for the same fate. The fact that caucus attendance doubled both cycles and that both the Stop Bob Bennett and the Hatch reelection campaigns not only succeeded, but greatly exceeded expected performance at the nominating convention, shows that after isolating other factors, the success at convention was directly attributable to the caucus turnout efforts. The myth that you cannot change voter turnout to caucuses was not just busted, it was shattered.
Jason Powers is the managing partner of Guidant Strategies, a Park City, Utah-based political consulting firm. He was a general consultant to Club for Growth on its Stop Bob Bennett victory and for Sen. Orrin Hatch on his reelection victory in 2012.