Is an uncoordinated Presidential campaign in our best interest?

Election 2004 | Building/Consensus
Just how coordinated was the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Florida?

First, some background. A couple of weeks before Election Day, the Republican party obtained a hard copy of the Democrats’ 46-page “Victory 2004 Florida Coordinated Campaign” and posted it online (in PDF format). The GOP claimed that this document, which had a page for signatures from the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the state party, and union groups, proved that the Democrats were engaged in illegal coordination betwe. The Democrats responded that the coordinating committee was in fact an independent entity allowed by the law, the Florida the Republicans were engaged in the same. The Republicans said they’d file suit with the FEC.

As a measly volunteer, I can say that I didn’t participate in much coordination. When canvassing with NJDC/ACT, I abided by a some strict canvassing rules and did not endorse Kerry. True, my cellphone records may show that I had a number of conversations with friends volunteering for the Kerry campaign. Our conversations were mostly like this: “Your ACT flyers are all over our routes!” My response: “We should coordinate this better next time!”

Our Operation Bubbe group did not have a particular territory, not even the Jewish vote which had been mobilized to turn out. We mostly had to trust the coordination of the America Votes organization, which had partnered with over thirty voter-outreach groups. I would have been curious to have seen a map illustrating all of the volunteer efforts across Florida, and in Palm Beach in particular, and how much this had corresponded with changes in the predicted vote totals. Where can I find this data now?

On Election Day, I hung up my “527” shoes and rejoined the Kerry-Edwards campaign on election day. I wanted a break from walking the canvass routes. Also, I wanted to get a sense of how non-coordination was working from the other side. I showed up at the Plantation office of the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and was dispatched to Lauderhill and then Miramar in Broward County. At both places there were over a dozen volunteers from various groups watching the polls, in a noncoordinated way. At the Miramar precinct, I met a local political leader named Raul who had been counting voters from the start of the day. This fact was unknown to the Plantation office until the Boston volunteer passed that information on to them. On the other hand, it was nice to see groups coordinate within themselves. A couple volunteering through MoveOn was from the area; they had a list of voters that they had been in contact with over the campaign.

Of course, this all begs the better question is whether campaigns should be coordinated in the future. The do-gooders who had rallied behind campaign finance, in the form of the McCain-Feingold bill three years ago, must be now shaking their heads. (The exceptions being the “527” nonprofit who now can reap the benefits of unlimited soft-money donations. In April, Dan Kennedy of the Phoenix stumped MoveOn founder Wes Boyd about why he felt that rules should bound the official partners, but not his group). It should be clear by now, that both parties and their constituents are comfortable with obscene amounts of money in the Presidential race; the question is where should it be spent. Do we wish it go to paying for misleading attack ads? Perhaps not, if that could somehow be regulated. Or would we be content to have unlimited funds go instead to the back office systems, the canvassing operations– all to ensure that people aren’t bothered to get a phone call from different organizations? I think that would best serve the the spirit of campaign finance reform.