The Guide for Canvassers – Lesson 4 – Appear Local

One of the most important things to remember when campaigning is to appear local!

Door-to-door campaigning can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of campaigning, especially when you aren’t the candidate.

A friend and I went campaigning in an important election in autumn of 2004. It may not be as fashionable as campaigning for Barack Obama, but we flew out to campaign for John Kerry and John Edwards in the 2004 Presidential election in the United States.

We called the Democratic National Committee in Washington to tell them that we would be in town and asked where we could most usefully deploy ourselves.

We were asked to report to Lancaster City, in Pennsylvania, so we duly did.

The local members seemed a little uncertain quite what to do with a pair of Brits but we were promptly sent canvassing around a very nice suburb, which was described as Republican-leaning in the important swing state.

We began knocking on doors and were having moderate success when a man answered his door. I should add I was dressed well, as American politicians do.  He looked at me as I asked who he thought he would support.

His jaw gradually dropped as I clearly came across as being un-American, he retreated slightly and turned to call his wife.

‘Honey, the British are coming!’  Thankfully they were Democrats.

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  1. Never make assumptions would be my advice.

    In Sheringham (North Norfolk) in a local by-election three months after ther 1997 GE, I was canvassing a rather nice estate when the door opened and what faced me was a stereotypical comedy character. Cigarette in mouth, with one of those ludicrous long burn off bits of ash that ought by the laws of gravity to have fallen off but was hanging on for dear life. The guy, scruffy greasy heaired, uunshaven, wearing torn jeans and a string vest, shuffled forward looking like the original model for the character Onslow from keeping up appearances.

    I went in to my lines about how close it had been in the general election and how local elections in North Norfolk are always very close between the Lib Dems and the Tories.

    I was greeted by silence.

    I repeated my lines, and still no reply except some sort fo uninteligable mumbling.

    I then asked “Do you want to the Tories to win ?”, making an assumption that from his looks and manner he was not your typical Conservative voter.

    “I am a Tory”, he replied.

    I made a hasty retreat, lesson learnt.

  2. Steffan John

     /  November 1, 2009

    I remember it well! I particularly remember them telling us to ‘Do Visibility’ – which consisted of standing on a road corner, waving placards, and getting Democrats – in their small cars with tree-hugging stickers – to honk in support, and getting Republicans – in their tanks covered with Confederate flags – to shout abuse.

    Not convinced about its electoral impact, but great fun all the same!

    • Yes I enjoyed ‘visibility’! I think the Americans we did it with were a little more embarrased about doing it than we were.


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