Most of the Nebraska senators to whom I spoke during my recent trip expressed the value of door-to-door campaigning. Money and endorsements are nice, they said, but door-knocking is essential, allowing an underfinanced candidate to win. Conversely, a well endowed candidate who doesn't bother to meet constituents will lose.
Just how many doors are we talking about? There are approximately 35,000 Nebraskans per state legislative district. If you omit the children and account for the folks that live together, that comes to roughly 10,000 doors to knock on. Indeed, several senators cited the 10,000 figure to me.
Is it really possible for a politician to knock on 10,000 doors?
I've done some campaign door-knocking, and it's exhausting. But let's say it takes only about 30 seconds to check a door where no one's home, maybe leaving behind some campaign literature. It takes about a minute to briefly greet a person who really doesn't want to talk to a politician -- that's a lot of them. There are probably a relatively few folks who actually want to talk to or yell at a politician that comes to their door -- that could take five or ten minutes. So let's suppose that the average door-knocking taking about a minute, probably more in sparsely populated rural districts.
10,000 minutes equals 167 hours of campaign time. If you do this 6 hours per day (grueling, but possible) you could reach 10,000 doors in under a month.
So yes, it's possible. It's a month when you're really doing nothing else, including whatever your day job is (Nebraska senators only make about $12,000 a year as legislators and thus need a regular job or personal wealth). On the other hand, actually meeting with constituents might be a good thing for the democratic system.
Another strategy that I used in my (unsuccessful) run for state office once upon a time, is to door knock in tandem with a volunteer. We would work opposite sides of the street so that I was in view to anyone the volunteer met at the door. If someone wanted to meet the candidate in person the volunteer would call me over. That happened occasionally.
We figured I still got some "credit" for knocking on the door, even if I was across the street. They saw me working. Like I said, I lost, but it was due to factors other than my door knocking strategy!
In Colorado House District races, which are comparable in size, one typically does a door knocking campaign over several months, and one will often prioritize swing precincts. There are also typically many neighborhoods (e.g. areas with limited access apartment buildings) where door knocking simply isn't viable.
Something like 3,000-6,000 doors over three months would be par for the course. Volunteers almost always come along for the ride, meaning that the candidate spends a larger percentage of time talking to people. Also, door knocking even without the candidate can have value - I've done that before and while not quite the same it still has a lot of impact.
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