Donald Trump’s campaign
says it knocked on over 1 million doors in the past week alone.
Joe Biden’s campaign says it knocked on zero.
The Republican and Democratic parties — from the presidential candidates on down — are taking polar opposite approaches to door-to-door canvassing this fall. The competing bets on the value of face-to-face campaigning during a pandemic has no modern precedent, making it a potential wild card in November, especially in close races.
Biden and the Democratic National Committee aren’t sending volunteers or staffers to talk with voters at home, and don’t anticipate doing anything more than dropping off literature unless the crisis abates. The campaign and the Democratic National Committee think they can compensate for the lack of in-person canvassing with phone calls, texts, new forms of digital organizing, and virtual meet-ups with voters.
“At first I was nervous, but our response rates on phone calls and texts are much higher and people are not necessarily wanting someone to go up to their door right now,” said Jenn Ridder, Biden’s national states director. “You get to throw a lot of the rule book out the window and try out new things.”
Trump and the Republican National Committee, in contrast, started deploying mask-wearing field staffers and volunteers to the streets in June. The GOP quickly ramped up and now claims more than a million doors a week despite Covid-19 surges across the country, including in swing states like Arizona.
Republicans say their door-knocking dominance could make a difference in November, since in-person conversations have long been considered the most effective type of voter contact.
“From now to Election Day, voters may only see one campaign at their doors,” Elliott Echols, the RNC's national field director. “If this were Barack Obama running, Democrats would want to be out there knocking doors. They don’t have enthusiasm or a strong field operation, so it is a convenient excuse. We can do this safely for President Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot.”