The Fixx’s Chris Cillizza makes a pretty strong case that President Obama won re-election in 2012 with a superior ground game based on human contact. Here’s Cillizza mulling over data from a study by Ohio State’s Paul Beck and Erik Heidemann:
In the battlegrounds, the Romney campaign actually had more total contacts with voters than did the Obama campaign — holding clear edges on direct mail and phone contacts. “These data challenge the claim of an Obama advantage in the ground game, especially one substantial enough to be credited with a victory built upon a virtual sweep of the battleground states,” write Beck and Heidemann. “Instead, and especially in the battlegrounds, the Romney campaign and Republican party seemed to duel the Obama campaign and Democratic party to a draw.”…There is an important caveat to all of the above. While Romney out-contacted Obama overall, the president’s campaign held a lead in one critical place: In-person contacts.
Write Beck/Heidemann: “While the edge was based on contacts with only a small slice of the electorate, it probably was the most consequential of all the contacts….we project that the Obama campaign personally contacted about 7 million more voters than the Romney campaign in all states and about 3.6 million more in the battleground states, which Obama won by a total of 1.6 million votes.”
No doubt Cillizza, Beck and Heidemann have a point — that person to person contact in electioneering is better than all other kinds. But none of this proves that the respective character, views and image of Obama and Romney were not decisive factors.