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Door-to-door politics: Still a thing in Georgia

The pandemic has slowed the strategy, but it hasn't stopped it.

MARIETTA, Ga. — Dozens of volunteers canvassed neighborhoods in suburban Atlanta Thursday. They were backers of President Trump, enlisted by the Ralph Reed-founded Faith and Freedom Coalition.

They did it at a time when the pandemic has played a big role in the politics of next month’s election. Trump’s campaign claims it has knocked on a half-million doors in Georgia.  

Buses took them into east Cobb County mid-afternoon to make the conservative case for President Trump and Republicans US Senator David Perdue and former US Rep. Karen Handel.

"It has been definitely pro-Trump in the areas we’ve been knocking," said Robin Webster of North Carolina, who came to Atlanta for Faith and Freedom Coalition conference this week at the Cobb Galleria.  

"Very energetic (response), very thumbs up, 'thank you, way to go, keep going,'" added Amanda Casillas.

They are doing what Democrats have mostly declined to do in the pandemic – ring door bells and request face-to-face conversations with voters.

"I’ve had a few challenges. A few friendly debates," Casillas added, smiling.

While Perdue has held few rallies, President Trump has embraced them. So have Republicans Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins, both running for the US Senate. 

Meantime, Democrat Jon Ossoff, also running for the US Senate, has mostly held virtual events.

"Because of the pandemic they shouldn’t be going door to door," said East Cobb resident Robert Haley, who said he had a lively conversation with the canvassers who rang his doorbell.  

Although political veterans often view door-to-door campaigning as effective and inexpensive – this year could be different, explained Doug Teper, a former Georgia state representative now teaching political science at Georgia State University.  

"In some neighborhoods, it’s a successful strategy," Teper said, citing its use in his own first election in 1990. But in 2020, "in some neighborhoods, you're going to make a lot of people upset (because they think) you're bringing a potentially life-threatening disease into their home."

Haley added that there are other ways to learn about political candidates. 

"There are a lot of campaigns standing down and not going door-to-door. So why are they?" he asked.

But canvassers in east Cobb told 11Alive they keep their distance from folks opening doors and soft-pitch the politics.  

"Most people are receptive," Webster, the doorknocker, said.

"As long as you're not a salesman," Casillas added, chuckling. 

It makes sense for Republicans to pay close attention to Cobb County. President Trump lost the county to Hillary Clinton by two points four years ago – and can ill afford to fall further behind next month. 

11Alive received this statement Thursday evening from the Biden for President Georgia Senior Advisor, Tharon Johnson, about their efforts:

"In the last week alone, our campaign has held over 1,000 unique virtual events and had tens of thousands of conversations with voters in every corner of Georgia. We will continue to reach out to voters where they are, and in a way that puts their health and safety first."