This Race Was No Walk in the Park

This Race Was No Walk in the Park
March 19, 2019
Brett Buerck

2018 saw the highest turnout in a mid-term election since 1914. 2018 also saw Democrats flip seven governors’ seats.

We saw Democrats win the governorships in three states that President Trump won in 2016.

Then there was Ohio.

The Great Lakes region’s only winning gubernatorial effort in 2018 was no walk in the park, but we found the pathway to victory and prevented Ohio from becoming the eighth state Democrats flipped and the fourth Trump state to go to Democrats.

Data and Analytical Insights
The first step was to take the results of a modeling project that showed Mike DeWine running ahead of Richard Cordray at 34% to 28% with 34% undecided and design an omni-channel turnout strategy that focused on motivating a key audience of voters through digital advertising, direct mail, and field tactics.

Who Were These Undecided Voters?
They weren’t “True Swing.” They were what we call “Republican Disengagers” – Republicans who had moved away from the party in both support and enthusiasm to vote in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

These voters were crucial to Mike DeWine’s path to 51% and victory, but the modeling told us that traditional persuasion methods weren’t going to work.

The Plan
We knew that not all of these “Republican Disengagers” were the same. They could be divided into two primary subsets.

The first we defined as the group that needed to be reinforced. At over one million voters, this was a significant audience that needed to be motivated to turn out. We saw, though, that “this is the way we’ve always done it” GOTV efforts weren’t going to be enough. These voters had moved away from their traditional support of Republican candidates but had not gone so far as to be Democratic voters. They were more apt to just not engage at all, and we needed more than a simple turnout message to motivate them.

The second group was a smaller universe of nearly a quarter of a million voters who were no longer “in the bank” voters. Instead, we needed to “defend” and move this audience to fully commit to supporting DeWine and voting in the election.

The Message
We needed to dare these voters to vote for the Democrat candidate Cordray through an omni-channel voter contact program that included:

  • Field (Phones and Door-to-Door)
  • Digital (YouTube, Facebook, Google, Display Ads, and Remarketing)
  • Direct Mail (Absentee Ballot Application, Absentee Chase, Early Vote Push, GOTV)

That plan resulted in:

  • Over 1 million voter contacts
  • Nearly 375,000 doors knocked
  • Over 678,000 phone calls
  • Over 49.1 million digital impressions
  • Over 11.3 million video views
  • 45 unique mail pieces
  • Over 11.1 million total mail pieces delivered to voters

The Results
In the final weeks, tracking showed that the Democrat candidate’s support had leveled out while Mike DeWine’s support rose and those “disengagers” began to turn back to the Republican candidate and increase their likelihood of turning out.

Who were these voters?

  • They were over 93,000 “disengagers” who returned to their support of DeWine and cast a ballot.
  • They were an additional nearly 92,000 votes from an absentee digital push.
  • They were another 21,000 voters generated from turnout efforts.

Those 206,858 votes were key.

Governor DeWine’s margin of victory?

Just over 164,000 votes.

The Takeaways
Data and analytical insights were the keys to developing an omni-channel voter contact program that delivered the right message at the right time to the right voters to motivate them to take action and cast a ballot for Governor Mike DeWine.

Had we not identified this universe of voters …

Had we not correctly identified this universe of voters as not “True Swing” …

Had we not identified the right message to motivate this audience …

Ohio may very well have become the 4th Trump state and the 8th gubernatorial seat Democrats flipped in 2018.

But it didn’t.

For a detailed case study, contact our team of national and state strategists here.