Politics

How One Congressman Is Changing Grassroots Campaigning Forever

REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

A Republican congressman is rolling out the blueprint for grassroots, face-to-face campaigning that could be the model for the party in the 2020 election cycle.

Fearing what many pundits are calling a “blue wave,” GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas and his team spent the better part of 2017 preparing for a midterm election cycle they knew would be challenging, potentially threatening the Republican majority in both chambers of Congress.

“We look to the 2018 election differently than we looked at other election cycles. We knew the liberal base of the Democratic party was going to be energized,” Yoder told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We knew we were going to be heading into a Democratic headwind. We needed to prepare for a 500-year flood.”

The last election cycle in Yoder’s district wasn’t great for Republicans across the field. While he managed to secure a victory, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton narrowly edged out President Donald Trump in Yoder’s district in 2016, taking 47.2 percent of the vote compared to Trump’s 46 percent. Yoder’s seat was held by a Democrat as recently as 2008.

Fifty House Republicans are either resigning, retiring or seeking other office in 2018. Roughly 22 House members retire each election cycle, so to say the party is going through a rather seismic shift is not a misnomer. (RELATED: Republicans Are Fleeing And So Are There Chances Of Taking Back The House)

Acknowledging a likely tumultuous path ahead, Yoder and his campaign team got together to figure out how they could secure a win in 2018 in what they figured would be an environment that favored Democrats. They figured the best way to win the hearts and minds of voters was to do it face-to-face, day in and day out for months. That would require a lot of leg work and could cost a great deal.

So, to get around those obstacles, Yoder decided to seek the help of young Republicans and conservatives who were willing to go all-in for the cause. Yoder’s team rounded up 75 high school and college volunteers to pound the pavement, make calls and do direct voter contact within his district. The congressman wanted all the volunteers to be from his district. Going a step further, Yoder decided to choose volunteers who were from the region and dedicate those volunteers to the neighborhoods and areas they were raised in, giving the campaign a community feel. (RELATED: GOP Releases New 2018 Campaign Video)

“We have 75 high school and college volunteers that are out working for us everyday. They make very effective messengers to get out and talk to voters. There is really no substitute for good ole fashion voter contact on people’s doorsteps asking people for their votes,” Yoder told TheDCNF.

The Yoder team broke the district up into 10 district regions. The volunteers are broken up into teams and focus solely on the sub-district they are assigned throughout the campaign. In each sub-district, the same volunteer will knock on a voters’ door, follow up with a personalized postcard and be the voters’ point of contact leading up to the election day.

Yoder’s team can effectively contact a remarkable number of voters per day.

“Max capacity we can knock about 5,000 doors per day and make about 10,000 calls,” a Yoder campaign official told TheDCNF.

Yoder has spent roughly $100,000 in total on the grassroots efforts, yielding some 80,000 voter contacts since the program launched in June.

The congressman serves the 3rd congressional district of Kansas — an area that flanks Kansas City and is comprised of mostly wealthy, educated suburban voters.

Yoder won’t have an official Democratic challenger until the primary Aug. 7. The Democratic field currently has six candidates vying to be the party nominee.

The larger Republican establishment appears to be taking notice of what Yoder’s campaign is doing. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s leadership pack, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has been keeping tabs on the campaign and has an office in Yoder’s district. A Yoder campaign official told TheDCNF that other Republican campaigns are interested in what Yoder is doing.

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