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Koch network restarts door-to-door canvasing for candidates despite coronavirus pandemic

  • July 31, 2020

Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, told CNBC in an interview that starting in late May he traveled to some of these states to see if the team could return to conducting in-person engagement with voters. Since then, he said, they’ve been “doubling down our on the ground effort” with a focus on swing state voters. 

Phillips said his teams have been following all of the state guidelines. When they go knock on doors, the volunteers practice social distancing, he said. In some states, though highly encouraged, people are not required by the state to wear a mask while walking outside and, Phillips noted, they do not always wear masks when they are speaking with voters outside their homes. They do encourage volunteers to wear masks while they are traveling together in a car. 

When they are in their offices, the activists follow the strict state guidelines for the number of people allowed simultaneously in a workspace and urge their representatives to wear masks while confined to that area. Phillips pointed to field offices in North Carolina as an example, where they are only allowing 10 people indoors at a time. They often shift groups of 10 people through each office at different times in order to follow state rules. 

Once they determined voters were willing to engage with them again, AFP went back to work in late June and has since started framing the election on who is best to help bring back a sense of normalcy in the wake of the pandemic.

“More than any single issue, these swing voters are raising one question. And that question is: ‘how do I get back to my normal life for me and the people I love?'” Phillips said. Their job, he said, is to explain how their Senate candidates could help them get back to what they once had. 

The renewed efforts have led to AFP Action connect to nearly 6 million registered voters in targeted races across the country. It’s knocked on at least 100,000 doors in those races. 

Through his own recent door-knocking experience, Phillips says swing state voters don’t appear to be settled on one candidate over the other and he defined the races as “fluid,” particularly as people struggle to overcome health and financial hurdles due to Covid-19. He also senses that more people are paying attention to politics than he’s ever seen in his over three decades of experience, which could lead to a record turnout. 

“They are profoundly impacted and so they’re paying more attention to the news and to politics than they normally do by a wide margin,” he said. 

“I do believe that the swing voters are fluid where they are headed and I do think they are withholding judgment right now,” he added.

That does not mean voters should expect AFP Action spots on broadcast television over the next few months. Phillips told CNBC that it has no plans to air TV ads this cycle and are instead solely going to be airing digital spots. 

That too is a change as the group spent just over $2 million during the 2018 congressional midterm election on TV ads. 

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