The current pandemic of COVID-19 has led to an upending of the campaign world. As I discussed in my previous piece, there are three tasks that you will generally be given when you are working on a campaign: canvassing, phonebanking, and donor research. All three of the tasks have changed in the last couple of months and in this piece, I will discuss how the current virus has changed things on the ground.
Canvassing has been the part of campaign work that has been the most affected during the coronavirus. Most state shutdown orders have put a prohibition on unnecessary business and travel. Canvassing is technically unnecessary according to the government, and even if it was deemed essential no campaign wants to be the reason why the virus spreads in their community. This means that for the last two or so months that there have been zero canvassing shifts. Most of the staff that would be out canvassing have been moved to other tasks such as phone banking.
Phonebanking is the task that has shifted the least during the pandemic. You cannot spread the virus through the phone lines so it is still ok to do calls. If you are the type of organizer that hates making calls, this is your worst nightmare because this is basically all that you can do. Seven hours of calls a day seems excessive but it is one of the things that campaigns have been doing to make up the gap in the voter contacts. Now, not all of those calls will be explicitly political. Some campaigns are using it as a way to check in with the community and provide resources to constituents.
A world without canvassing
With the absence of canvassing, campaigns are looking at more ways to get voter interaction. This has led to more teams investing in their coms program, specifically via Facebook ads. Campaigns use these to hype events that they create to do virtual phone banking. Instead of gathering in the campaign office, volunteers are now hanging out on Zoom and are calling together. This is similar to what you will see in a campaign office but it is noticeably different.
Donor research and fundraising have changed as well. On the local level, you have candidates deciding to not raise money from constituents during this time. Others cannot hold fundraisers because of social distancing guidelines. This means that candidates are stuck doing call time to raise money. If there is one thing that candidates hate doing, it is call time. This means that the staff has to make an attempt to monetize everything under the sun. Fundraising links get spammed everywhere. There is not much you can do in this environment if the candidate refuses to fundraise. There have been many campaigns that have burned through their cash on hand because of that.
Overall, this has changed the nature of campaigns and made it much more dependent on calls. When states open back up you will probably see the field teams start back up again. There will be less this cycle than usual, but there will still be canvass teams out there, especially during GOTV.