Marco Rubio’s Lousy Ground Game In Iowa Will Probably Cost Him Votes

Is Rubio right to bet against field offices? Are physical offices relics of a bygone age of retail politics, and is Rubio simply smart to realize it?

According to political science research, Rubio avoids the establishment of a ground game at his peril. Field offices work because they provide a location for the coordination and training that make voter contact valuable. Campaigns that can contact supporters personally to encourage them to vote should make every effort to do so. Knocking on doors can increase turnout by nearly 10 percent, and effective phone calls can encourage an additional 4 percent of voters to head to the polls. Without a field office in an area, candidates will find it much more difficult to translate these tactics into victory.

To be fair, neither canvassing nor phone calls technically require a field office. If a campaign’s main goal is merely to contact as many voters as possible, staff members will often spare themselves the time, effort and cost of training local volunteers by hiring professional callers and recruiting canvassers from out of state. But when campaigns take this shortcut, they often pay the price.