Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A close look at campaign Meet-and-Greets

They are important. They aren't a mystery.

President or local office, it is about the same. Meet and greets are a classic way to build a network of supporters. I look closely at two of them.

Presidential Meet and Greet in New Hampshire

I attended a meet-and-greet event for Chris Christie in September of 2015--four months before the New Hampshire primary election. He was considered a likely frontrunner at that point. Donald Trump got bigger crowds, but Trump, then, was considered a novelty candidate, getting crowds because he was famous and controversial and said things that surely made him un-electable. The prevailing thought was that Trump would implode and Chris Christie would be the experienced successor and beneficiary.

Meet and Greet phase
Chris Christie had a meet and greet. It was advertised widely. I attended.  It would be a chance to meet the next president, maybe.

Here is what I saw:

1.  Widespread advertisement of the event, and the clear goal was to get people there. Invitations were published in the Candidate Tracking news sites and Republican newsletters. It was advertised to the public and the public was invited. Come and meet Chris Christie!

2. The venue was an upper-middle class type private home with a big front yard on a Sunday afternoon. The hosts served desserts, cheese, crackers, pate, chips, all things that could be eaten without a plate. They served wine and beer and sparkling water in plastic cups.  My estimate of the food cost for the Christie event is $250. There was food for fifty or sixty.

3. The hosts were politically active; the husband a sitting County Commissioner, which in New Hampshire is a part time job paying about $20,000 a year. The host was an attorney.

4. When guests arrive they were met by campaign volunteer staff, who captured the guest's name, address, phone, willingness to volunteer. 

5. Time table for the 90 minute event:
  35 minutes: Informal wandering around and chatting between candidate and guests.
It turns out he is not the next president.
   5 minutes:  Host goes to raised spot, he thanks everyone for coming, and then the host says nice things about the candidate.
  15 minutes: Christie goes to the raised steps, thanks the host, then gives his stump speech saying why he should be elected president. 
  15 minutes: Candidate takes questions by the attendees. (I asked him about Bridge-gate.  He said he barely knew the perpetrators.)
   5 minutes:  A well-regarded guest goes to the steps, thanks the candidate and then then does the "ask"--i.e. a call to action in the form of general support or a financial donation.
  20 minutes: Christie leaves amid people wanting to buttonhole the candidate.

6. No media attended, although photographer David Kennerly was there on assignment from some news magazine to take photos only.

7. Headcount: about 40 people.

Michelle Blum Atkinson 

What happened at the event for Michelle Blum Atkinson? Essentially the same thing.

Michelle Blum Atkinson arrived early, bringing lawn signs and donation envelopes. Two campaign volunteers also arrived early and set themselves up to help greet and log in guests. Guests arrived approximately on time. The candidate made the rounds greeting people. Guests ate the food and drank the wine--more red than white.

After about 35 minutes a former county commissioner (i.e. me) introduced the candidate. She spoke for about 15 minutes and answered questions for another 15. Former State Representative Peter Buckley went to the microphone and urged people to support her--i.e. "the ask." Current State Representative Pam Marsh spoke about how useful it would be for this seat to be held by a Democrat and re-affirmed the call for support for the candidate.  

Then the candidate resumed visiting with guests.

No media attended, although photographer Allen Hallmark was there as a volunteer taking photographs, including all the photos shown here. (Thank you, Allen.)

Time: about 90 minutes. Headcount about 30 people.

What was different? We had live music playing during the meet-and-greet period by a band that called themselves "No Collusion" consisting of Rick Millward, Art Baden, and Tom Fuhrmark, who volunteered their service. The music defined the event as a bit more informal and party-like than it would have been without it.

Democracy in America. This is how it is done. The events cause networks of "endorsements", i.e. the hosts are communicating to the many people invited that they like the candidate, then people who attend tell others that they saw and liked the candidate. People often contribute financially in response to the call to action. and write checks, take lawn signs, etc.

The most important element to the meet-and-greet gathering is the invitation.  The New Hampshire county commissioner and the Republican party in the area placed advertising, associating the county commissioner and Chris Christie and inviting the public. Thousands of people would have seen the invitation. 

In the event for Michelle Blum Atkinson, I sent an invitation to a hundred local attorneys, to 250 people in my email address book, to 200 Democratic precinct committee people, and to hundreds of local Facebook friends, totaling perhaps 800 people. This is fewer than were reached by Chris Christie, but still significant. The invitation is a kind of endorsement advertisement and referral.

Photos of the event:


Former Rep. Peter Buckley did the call to action
State Rep. Pam March praises the candidate
Attendee Lee Murdoch
Lawn signs available for pickup

Refreshments are traditional. 
Left to right: Baden, Millward, Fuhrmark.



Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

How many attended in response to 800 invites?