Crist is looking to replicate the Georgia Democrats’ strategy in the Florida race against DeSantis

Crist is looking to replicate the Georgia Democrats’ strategy in the Florida race against DeSantis

Charlie Crist is relying on an unusual strategy to win back voters in his bid for Florida governor: paying people to talk to their friends, family and neighbors about his campaign.

The tactic — called “relational organizing” by political professionals — is relatively new to the world of campaign politics, though it’s unproven. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) relied on the strategy ahead of his successful 2021 runoff campaign against former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.).

Hoping to replicate this success, Crist’s campaign – in coordination with the Florida Democratic Party – is now working with Relentless, a firm formed by a group of former Ossoff campaign staffers. Crist’s operation has recruited more than 600 organizers statewide as part of the program, with efforts focused in South Florida’s Miami-Dade and Broward counties, as well as Tampa.

The premise behind the strategy is simple: Instead of sending volunteers and campaign staffers to have unexpected – and sometimes uncomfortable – conversations with strangers, relational organizing relies on paid organizers or volunteers to have more natural political discussions and free with their acquaintances.

Proponents of relational organizing say that conversations are often more persuasive and do a better job of gaining people’s support than more traditional methods of voter outreach.
“We know that a conversation between people who know each other is about 2 1/2 times more effective than a conversation between strangers,” said Greta Carnes, the former national organizing director for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. and one of the co-founders of the organization. Relentless.

“When you hear about it [Crist] because your mom texted you three times in one week about Charlie Crist, you have to trust your mom,” he said.

According to the campaign’s estimate, its organizers have had more than 20,000 conversations over the course of the 2022 mid-term cycle – the equivalent of knocking on around 300,000 doors.

Crist’s campaign is not the only operation to try a relational organizing strategy. The Texas Democratic Party launched a similar volunteer program earlier this year, called Connect Texas, while another group, the Progressive Turnout Project, invested in a paid relational organizing program in battleground states like Georgia and Nevada.

Crist’s campaign has so far spent about $1 million on the effort. It is primarily aimed at low-propensity Hispanic and black organizers, believing those organizers will help the campaign effectively target other low-propensity voters in their communities.

“Florida is so big and there are so many voters that can be really hard to reach,” Carnes said, describing the Crist campaign’s effort as something of a test case. Such organizing tactics have not been implemented on such a large scale in Florida.

“How does this work specifically to organize Hispanic communities and organize this effort in English and in Spanish?” Carnes asked, adding, “I don’t think we’re just running a cookie cutter version of a program that we’ve run before.”

Of course, the program may have to do some heavy. An average of polls in the Florida governor’s race shows Crist trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) by nearly 10 points, a stunning margin in a state where primary contests are often decided by a percentage point or less.

By comparison, an analysis of Ossoff’s relational organizing program found that it improved turnout by about 3.8 percentage points among the 160,000 voters targeted by the effort. Ossoff ultimately won the election by a slim margin of 1.2 points.

Of course, this type of improvement cannot be applied across the board, Carnes said. First, relational organizing is still a new concept, and Ossoff’s campaign put it to use in a matter of weeks before his victory in January 2021. Crist’s campaign, on the other hand, has been around for months.

“The Ossoff program was the first program of its kind,” Carnes said. “From the beginning, it was very much an experiment, so we couldn’t take that 3.8 percent bump and apply it everywhere.”

But Crist’s campaign sees the relational organizing strategy as a long-term investment that could help give Democrats a path forward in a state that has seen Republicans make significant gains in recent years.

“Relational organizing sets our campaign apart and sets the stage for a new tactic that Florida Democrats can use to move forward,” Crist’s campaign manager, Sydney Throop, said in a statement. “Our program is not just about connecting with Democrats, it’s about reaching Floridians, often left out of the political process, and bringing them into the fold. That’s how Florida Democrats will play to win for cycles at come over “.

Updated: 12:11 pm

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