ICYMI: In swing-state Florida, the 2018 congressional election has already begun

Miami Herald (excerpts below)

Patricia Mazzei

The exasperated man answered the door of his West Kendall home, annoyed at being interrupted from work and hollering at his furry little dog, Sacha, who had rushed to sniff out the unexpected visitors: a pair of high school volunteers holding clipboards and a stack of political fliers.

The volunteers promised they had only three questions. Had he heard of his congressman, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo? (He had.) Which issue — tax reform, the economy, the environment — mattered most to him? (Lower taxes.) Was he familiar with Curbelo’s efforts to combat climate change?

The volunteers said thank you. The man picked up his dog and shut the door.

This is what the 2018 campaign looks like — in 2017.

Fifteen months before next year’s congressional midterm elections, political organizations are already involved in field operations, making calls to voters and knocking on their doors in what has become a never-ending campaign cycle.

And in this case, the volunteers sweltering under the summer sun don’t even work for Curbelo.

They’re interns for Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan that two months ago opened an office in Curbelo’s swing 26th congressional district and set out to help get the sophomore Republican reelected.

“The old model is stale and lazy — the old model being, ‘Let me raise as much money I possibly can find. Let me save it, and then I’m going to spend it all on television in the month of October’ ” of the election year, said Corry Bliss, the super PAC’s executive director.

Ahead of 2018, Bliss said the super PAC has already opened 15 offices in priority districts across the country, with 15 more to come by the end of the year. The only other Florida office is in the 18th district, held by freshman Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City.

Congressional Leadership Fund has pledged to spend $100 million over two years to try to keep the House under GOP control.

“The earlier you do it, the more dividends it pays,” Bliss said. “That interaction at the door is more impactful than any TV ad could ever be.”

Driving the super PAC is the idea that focusing on issues that matter locally (read: climate change) wins more races than focusing on national issues, especially with as unpredictable a president as Donald Trump. In each district, the super PAC identifies some 80,000 voters who could be decisive in the election, and contacts them, over and over again. Curbelo comfortably won reelection last year by some 33,000 votes.

While Congressional Leadership Fund’s early field foray into congressional districts is unusual for a Republican super PAC, its belief that it takes a long time to build relationships with voters is not.