End Of The “Meet And Greet” Era?


All politics is local … or is it?

Market Research Foundation has studied this issue in the past – and determined that local issues matter a great deal in statewide and national races.

But what about candidate visits?  Do these “meet-and-greets” – which offer candidates a chance to weigh in on local issues – really provide an advantage?

New data from Ohio State political scientist Thomas Wood suggests they do not.  According to Wood – who examined data from the 2012 election cycle – the era of the “meet-and-greet” is over.

“Campaign events probably don’t influence voters,” Wood told The (U.K.) Guardian.

According to Wood, 56 percent of local residents were unaware that 2012 GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had even visited their area – to say nothing of knowing anything about what issues were raised during their stops.

Additionally, those who did notice the presence of the GOP ticket were not moved to vote for them – with support increasing by only 2-3 percent in the immediate aftermath of these candidate visits (and fading quickly after that).

“If visits have only a moderate impact on voters, but consume vast amounts of the candidates’ and their staff’s time, attention and resources, why not neglect visits and instead redouble candidates’ attention to fundraising,” Wood asked in the latest editions of the Annals of the American Academic of Political and Social Science.

Is he right?

Well, the two GOP candidates who held the most meet-and-greet events in New Hampshire this year – John Kasich and Chris Christie – obviously didn’t win there (although Kasich finished in second place in the Granite State).

Obviously not all candidate visits are created equal.  GOP nominee Donald Trump has ditched the  traditional meet-and-greet approach in favor of huge public rallies – which have drawn considerable media coverage.  Of course Trump’s celebrity pre-dated his political rise – and his populist message lessens with the need for any sort  of “man of the people” props.

How should campaign managers view “meet-and-greets” then?

Our research shows they still have the potential to provide immense value – assuming campaigns are able to maximize the exposure of each the visit beforehand and incorporate compelling local issues into their candidates’ narratives.

This is a product of good data, good execution and good strategy – especially when it comes to determining which local hot button issues might mesh well with a candidate’s broader agenda.

Too often candidates view local events as repetitive “top-down” exchanges – in which they shower their knowledge of broader, big-ticket issues on an audience that might a) already be familiar with the candidates positions and b) might wish to know where the candidate stands on issues that are closer to home.

Of course when candidates are presented with opportunities to engage locally, they are often ignorant of the subject matter – or they defer the dispute to the appropriate local authorities.

Those are missed opportunities – and perhaps one reason why these events aren’t as successful as they could be.