The Manila Times : GOTV: How a political campaign should play the endgame

By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times

First word

NOW that the election campaign has entered its final week, the time has come for everyone — candidates and voters alike — to shift their focus from contacting and persuading voters to the challenge of turning out the vote on Election Day. It can make the difference between winning and losing an election.

Get out the vote (GOTV)

American campaign practice calls it "Get out the vote" (GOTV). In the Philippines, it's more earthly described as hakot or ferrying voters literally to the election precincts, ensuring they vote according to plan.

Every politician and campaign worker will attest that no campaign activity is more essential than this on D-Day.

One American campaign handbook describes GOTV as follows:

"GOTV starts the first day of the campaign. This is a line that is often heard on electoral campaigns, but many campaigns fail to really think about GOTV until the final few weeks. But GOTV should be seen as the culmination of the process of base-building and expanding. It is not enough to deliver a compelling message and have a well-run campaign.

"The true test of a campaign comes when it translates support into votes on Election Day. GOTV can and should be fun and exciting. It is intense and exhausting work that requires the campaign staff and volunteers to devote all of their energy to the final days of the campaign. It is also exhilarating. There is nothing like the energy at the end of the campaign, when everything is on the line, emotions are running high, and people understand that their hard work is coming to an end.

"In this final stage, everyone needs to work as if there is no tomorrow, because when it comes to the campaign, there isn't."

Conversation with voters

Throughout the campaign, a candidate and his campaign organization are essentially conducting a conversation with voters.

The conversation takes place through many mediums, like field organizing, the media and communication and fund-raising. In the final days of the campaign, the central focus of the conversation turns to mobilizing and turning out its base.

By the end, a massive grassroots operation springs into action to turn supporters out to the polls. This activity requires plenty of volunteers.

Like every other aspect of a campaign, successful GOTV efforts depend on careful planning. The initial GOTV plan should be sketched out at the start of the campaign and finalized no later than one month from election day.

This is an intense, fast-paced time, and the campaign needs to approach it with a sense of fun and excitement. A successful GOTV effort has a lot of energy: it is inclusive by involving everyone and it is personal by connecting directly with people where they live and work.

GOTV programs fail if they come too late and if the campaign fails to build a sustained relationship in the target communities. They also fail if they fail to reflect the diversity of a community.

Challenge to BBM and Leni

The challenge to Bongbong Marcos and the UniTeam is to translate into votes on Election Day the massive support shown them in the pre-election surveys and convert into votes the enthusiastic crowds at their campaign rallies and motorcades across the archipelago.

The temptation in BBM's case is to relax, thinking the contest is already over. But no delusion could be sadder than defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

The challenge to Leni Robredo, in turn, as the top challenger to Marcos is to turn her own supporters and the ranks of the opposition out at the polls. She should try to consolidate her forces and late-coming supporters into one final push until Election Day.

It is now being asked whether Leni's brash challenge to BBM to a debate can qualify as a way to get out the vote for her. The Marcos team dismisses it, however, as a tactic for cheap propaganda that will only drive more voters away from her.