Revisiting Webb 2016 In Iowa

trippi-bookAfter re-reading my post “5 Reasons Jim Webb’s Stock is Up” I stand by what I wrote.

For a blog post it holds up reasonably well.

At the same time, tick-tock for #WebbNation in Iowa.

Two weeks later and three weeks until Labor Day, I don’t see the Webb ground game in action, except occasional emails, list-serve messages, and social media posts. Joe Stanley is working, and posts about activities occasionally in social media. Webb has a small number of Iowa events planned. If there is more, it’s invisible.

“There is a lot of work for him to do before Labor Day to catch up with Clinton and Sanders,” I wrote, believing the campaign would make progress. “It’s going to take more than Joe Stanley’s happy face to develop and execute a Webb ground game.”

I’m not the only one who noticed Stanley. On Tuesday Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post tracked me down for a discussion and quoted me in a blog post she wrote.

Stanley was quick to respond on Twitter and proceeded to protect his tweets, as Weiner reported. What gives?

Hillary and her staff know the game, having been through it before. Bernie Sanders’ campaign experienced rapid growth pains, but now also knows the drill. Martin O’Malley seems disciplined and personable, and the first time I attended one of his events, he had caucus commitment cards available and ready to sign. This is what Iowa Democrats expect of presidential candidates. Identification of and turning out your people caucus night is what provides a ticket out of Iowa.

If Webb is playing strategy close to the vest, what could it be if it doesn’t include the block and tackling typical of winning Iowa’s Democratic caucuses? One expects a canvasser from #WebbNation would have called or reached out by now, something the Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley campaigns have already done, multiple times.

There aren’t many other paths for #WebbNation.

There are a lot of veterans in Iowa—enough to win the caucus outright if a candidate can unite enough of them behind him or her. Veterans represent a natural Webb constituency, and a list of Iowa Democratic veterans exists. Webb should be working it. But is he?

Jim Webb ≠Joe Stanley, as Stanley tweeted yesterday. They have known each other and campaigned together for a long time. Stanley is one of the faces of #WebbNation and his antics on social media serve as a distraction from what else Webb may be doing to ID caucus supporters.

Whatever that may or may not be, there is very little evidence of a Webb ground game in Iowa. High profile events like the Des Moines Register Soap Box at the state fair, and the stock and trade of county fair and central committee meetings, yes. But not the political grunt work needed to organize for a candidate in Iowa.

“How different has this time been with the Internet?” emailed a friend from a past campaign yesterday. “I feel like everyone is mini-stalking people in Iowa through Twitter.”

The Internet serves a weird function this cycle, making for laziness among reporters anxious to generate clicks. Yes, some stalking is going on, but to win the caucuses actual people need to show up at a specific time and place. Making that happen takes work that lies outside the Internet.

The clock is ticking until Labor Day when the next phase of the canvass begins: a mad rush to end of year holidays, the new year and closing the deal with Democratic caucus goers.

I like Jim Webb and would like to see him win delegates to the state convention. The question is whether the campaign will emerge from the special ops mode it is in and organize. Today it is an open question and there is time, but not much time, to make it happen.

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