One question may loom larger than any other in this election cycle: just how much does traditional politicking matter? Both campaigns have placed large bets on diametrically opposed answers, seemingly without hedging them much, if at all.

Joe Biden, his campaign, and the DNC insist that voters won’t respond to in-person appeals such as larger-scale events and door-knocking. They have directed most of their money to national TV ads and national messaging, although last week began to explore some rudimentary door-knocking. Team Trump, the RNC, and especially Donald Trump himself all insist on traditional events, door-knocking, and more granular personal-contact efforts, while arguably underfunding the TV campaign.

With that as the status quo ante, Team Trump and the RNC doubled down on their GOTV strategy, the New York Times reported — tenfold, according to the numbers:

With voting underway in more than 30 states, the Republican National Committee has begun a $60 million digital get-out-the-vote campaign that will harness social media, text messages, emails and other platforms to digitally chase voters.

The expansive effort leverages the vast data operation the party has built over the past three years, and will involve quickly filling the newsfeeds, inboxes and text threads of potential voters with information on how to vote and reminders about key deadlines. …

The $60 million investment is a marked jump for the party’s digital get-out-the-vote program, which it invested just $2.9 million in for the 2016 cycle.

“It’s a new priority from the G.O.P. because typically this is not the type of money they would invest in that type of campaign,” said Filippo Trevisan, a professor of public communication at American University. “They’ve had get-out-the-vote efforts in the past but never to the level that we’re seeing.”

The RNC has worked on building this capability ever since their shock defeat in the 2012 presidential election. The key part of their overhaul was an in-house voter-contact system that emulated Barack Obama’s innovative campaign models, only to make sure it remained independent of candidates. In 2016, they had the framework of the human model built, and had a small but effective digital campaign to complement it. At that time, however, Team Trump preferred to focus its resources on rallies and earned media from them rather than the personal-contact politics that Reince Priebus wanted to enhance. They were fortunate, however, that Hillary Clinton largely ignored that too in favor of Mitt Romney’s data-analytics, national-messaging strategy.

This time, both the RNC and the Trump campaign have leaned into the personal-contact efforts. Reportedly making a million door knocks a week, the combination now have a massive GOTV file on voters, especially in battleground states. But will that succeed in driving turnout in Trump’s favor?

“It’s difficult to say whether they’re going to work or not for get-out-the-vote, because get-out-the-vote efforts really work best when you can involve some contact with the person that you are trying to persuade,” Mr. Trevisan said.

And this is where the big bet comes into play. If Biden and the DNC spend dollar for dollar on digital GOTV, they still won’t be able to compete. They have not had the voter contact necessary to grasp what moves voters in individual states, cities, and even precincts. They don’t even know who to contact to help them find out, because they haven’t done any of the basic blocking and tackling to get and organize those volunteers and local surrogates. That’s why this part of the NYT report isn’t a comparison at all:

Though the Democrats have not outlined their digital get-out-the-vote operation, both the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have been spending heavily on digital ads. The Biden campaign has regularly outspent Mr. Trump on Facebook, often by more than a third, and the D.N.C. reserved $22 million on YouTube for the general election.

Without any granularity or context for what people specifically care about, all this means is that Team Biden will run the same national messaging on social-media platforms as they do on TV. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s essentially duplication of the same kind that drove the Clinton campaign in 2016. They looked at all of those voter contacts and just assumed that the quality of the contact didn’t matter — only the quantity.

Republicans, on the other hand, have made the personal contacts necessary to at least have the ability to microtarget messaging and ensure the best possible contact for their money. It’s why all those stories about the lack of door-knocking by Democrats mattered — they’re now essentially flying blind on the electorate and the reception of their messaging. The GOP at least has made the right moves to create the feedback loops and develop targeting strategies to maximize the impact of their GOTV messaging and activities.

Are they doing it well enough to matter? We’ll know after the election, but this is a critical capability, one that Obama proved would not just succeed in one election but produce sustainable results in future elections as well. It’s quite possible that Democrats will live to regret not learning that lesson, and not once but twice.