Touting it as a calculated risk they think will pay off big in 2014, state Democrats are putting "boots on the ground" now to start reaching out to voters in an effort to take back the Capitol building.
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) unveiled plans of attack to swing the 2014 gubernatorial and state representative races back to blue.
In a nutshell, Dems are looking at establishing a dynamic ground game in all 72 counties because party leaders recognize that they'll need a strong presence outside the major Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Dane Counties.
"We know this is a calculated risk to start this early, but it will be worth it," Tate said.
The initiative is backed by a $500,000 investment from the state party and starts with paid staffers in LaCrosse, Green Bay and Eau Claire. From there, efforts will fan out across the state.
"This 72-county strategy is a half-million dollar investment to defeat Scott Walker's agenda," Tate continued. "We are going to be a thorn in Scott Walker's side as he identifies himself as a Tea Party candidate, to get out in front of the special interest money we expect to support him."
How this will work, Larson explained, is through state-of-the-art technology, data mining and strategic canvassing.
Barca said he's enthusiastic about the new plan because it gets the Democratic message to every corner of the state.
"This is innovative thinking. We're capitalizing on the Democratic ideals that appeal across the state, the same ideals that sent Senator Baldwin to Washington and re-elected President Obama," he said.
Reaching out to voters is all well and good, but the Democratic candidate for governor to whom all this support will flow remains a question.
Tate said there will be solid candidate by the end of the year and joked that perhaps it could be either Barca or Larson.
"Who knows, maybe it's one of these gentlemen," he said. "I'm not trying to kick off a primary during this call."
Tate admitted the $500,000 is not cash-on-hand, but he also said party leaders are confident they can pull the money together. What the half-million funds includes staff, brick-and-mortar offices, and technology.
"We're targeting districts and voters, taking our cues from the Obama campaign," he added.
"Look at the Obama team's success. It's incredibly impressive," he said. "Money is always an issue so we are starting early. It's an uphill battle so we have to be more strategic and be aggressive with this early start."
GOP not giving up the ground game
The Republican Party of Wisconsin answered back with a written release that clearly spells out the GOP's commitment to the ground game they developed and ran so well leading up the historic recall and the November elections last year.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin has built a strong and engaging grassroots organization that saw impressive success in 2012 – making nearly 10 million voter contacts as we protected the Governor and Lieutenant Governor from a baseless recall, increased our majority in the State Assembly, and took back the majority in the State Senate. We also protected the Republican Congressional delegation.
State Republicans are also opening offices in Waukesha, Green Bay and Eau Claire and putting down roots in Madison in traditionally Democratic Dane County. The goal, they say, is to continue Gov. Scott Walker's agenda of focusing on growth and job development.
The written statement scoffs at Democratic efforts to get in on the ground game and says Republicans plan to build on the efforts that successfully ushered Walker through the recall and kept a conservative majority in both houses in Madison.
“While there is no doubt that the Democrats will attempt to trot out their 'plans' for party building in the months to come, we are confident that our aggressive and ongoing efforts will protect Governor Walker and continue building our strong base," the release concludes.