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“We don’t have the luxury of not knocking on doors because these elections are going to be decided based on the turnout,” said Elizabeth Guzman, Democratic state of Virginia, who overturned her seat in 2017 and stepped down. briefly presented for lieutenant governor earlier this year. .

The Virginia Democrats Coordinated Campaign, a joint campaign effort between former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, other state and local Democrats and the state party, said it had struck at 200,000 doors since the start of the summer, which corresponds to the same pace as its pre-pandemic efforts for the 2017 elections.

The efforts put an end to the asymmetric fieldwork that took place in 2020. Republicans also have robust field operations. In Virginia, the Republican National Committee sent more than 100 field staff to the state, POLITICO reported previously, and the state-coordinated campaign said it had reached nearly 250,000 doors.

The Democrats’ return to the gates is even accompanied by a wave of coronavirus cases, especially among unvaccinated Americans, due to the Delta variant. But Democrats say there’s one key difference between this summer and last summer: vaccines.

“Basically every study published on the most meaningful conversations you can have with a voter will be face-to-face at the door,” said Brooklynne Mosley, coordinating campaign manager for the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. “It impacted our decision to want to be able to speak to voters, and simply based on the fact that Jersey has high immunization rates and that we take precautions to make sure our staff and volunteers are safe. “

“We understand that outdoor environments – which, if you think of most fieldwork, tend to be outdoors – are generally safer,” added Virginia State MP Dan Helmer. , a Democrat who overturned a seat in the State House in 2019 and is running for re-election. This year.

In California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom looks increasingly likely to defeat this week’s recall election, his campaign this summer staged what it said was the largest in-person voting operation in history. the state, with more than 600 paid fields. Staff. They wear masks when knocking on doors and during campaign events.

Democrats stressed that they were always aware of the ongoing pandemic during their work on the ground. And they’re, in fact, campaigning on the pandemic – and the mask and vaccine warrants that sound good. In Virginia, McAuliffe recently published a television commercial attacking his Republican opponent, saying “like Donald Trump, Glenn Youngkin refuses to take the coronavirus seriously”.

McAuliffe also praised Biden on Thursday for making vaccines mandatory for federal employees – a significant portion of the Northern Virginia electorate – and called on schools and businesses to do the same. Youngkin, who is himself vaccinated and calls on others to get him, has presented the warrants as overbreadth. He also frequently campaigns against school closures.

As party ground games are in full swing, Democrats and Republicans say they have learned from the past year and a half. Republicans in Virginia also say they are reminding field staff to be “respectful” of homeowners who want knockers to keep their distance.

And Democrats increasingly see knocking on the door, Guzman said, as a great opportunity to reach out to voters to make sure they can communicate in the language they are most comfortable with.

“We are leaving no voter behind,” said Guzman, who is also co-chair of Todos con Terry, the campaign’s outreach effort for Latino voters. “We also try to be sensitive to the languages ​​spoken and how voters feel more comfortable talking about the elections.”

Beyond the tri-state with out-of-year elections, Democrats also got a quick jump on groundwork in states that will be critical in the fight for control of Washington in 2022 and beyond.

In Wisconsin, where Democrats went entirely virtual as Covid raged ahead of the 2020 election, state Democrats last month were back at the door, canvassing in neighborhoods across the state. Staff members should be vaccinated, and staff and volunteers should wear masks and, after knocking on a door, step back six feet.

“If you look at the numbers in Wisconsin in the fall of 2020, when no one was vaccinated and we had one of the biggest epidemics in the country, it made sense not to knock on doors,” he said. said Ben Wikler, the state Democratic Party. chair. Wisconsin Democrats are defending Gov. Tony Evers’ first term and trying to oust GOP Senator Ron Johnson, who holds one of two Senate seats held by Republicans in the states Biden won in 2020.

However, Wikler said, there are likely thousands of sporadic Democratic voters who have likely never answered a phone or looked at a text message and who Democrats can now contact in person. One of the benefits of moving to virtual organizing last year, he said, is that the party now has a stable of organizers who know not only door-to-door but also virtual tools used less frequently before.

“One of the benefits of how we have adapted to the pandemic is that we have a larger arsenal of volunteers who know more of different tactics,” he said. “You are more likely to reach someone if you try different things. “

Matt Friedman contributed to this report.

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