Ground game determines the political winners
As John McCain and Barack Obama bellow at each other across the national presidential campaign, a much more subtle war is being waged.
Heavy television buys, the mailers and the rallies all are aimed at voters during a presidential campaign, but this year candidates are discovering the value of grass-roots stumping.
The so-called boots-on-the-ground sort of politics is what Hawaii Democrats have practiced for years to remain in the winner's circle.
But it was a mainland political consultant, Paul Tewes, who helped reinvigorate it in Hawaii during the 2006 Democratic U.S. Senate primary race between Sen. Dan Akaka and former Rep. Ed Case.
It was Case with the early flash, but it was Akaka with the steadily spreading network of identified contacts that won his race.
Andy Winer, state coordinator for the Obama campaign, also ran Akaka's campaign. Tewes came out several times to help design the grass-roots operation.
"It was a very intense ground game. I would say it was more intense than most people have seen in a long time. We had literally hundreds of people knocking on doors and dragging people out to vote," says Winer.
The secret of grass-roots campaigning is to find out who is likely to vote for your candidate, identify them by name and make sure each and every one of them votes.
"We used demographic, phone identification programs," Winer said about the 2006 race.
The Akaka campaign focused on native Hawaiian voters, union families and families with a strong Democratic history.
"Then we made phone calls, we went door to door, it is the nitty-gritty organization that hadn't been done on a statewide basis for many years," Winer says.
It worked, and Tewes and his political consulting firm Hildebrand Tewes have been using it with dramatic success across the nation.
After clinching the presidential nomination, Obama sent Tewes to the Democratic National Committee, and while Howard Dean remains the DNC chairman, it is expected that Tewes will run fundraising and revamping of the organization.
National campaign consultants like Tewes might be flying at 35,000 feet with their campaign strategy, but they are all learning that it is at ground level where presidents, senators and city council members either win or lose.