How ‘Ground Game’ Moved From a Gridiron to Politics

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Victorious officials spin to football terms popularized in a 1920s.

Nov. 5, 2014 12:30 p.m. ET

As Republicans trumpeted their victories over Democratic rivals in Tuesday’s midterm elections, many GOP leaders chalked adult their success to a higher “ground game”: effectively mobilizing electorate to get them to a polls.

“We’ve had a belligerent diversion like we never had before,” announced Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who won a second tenure after a tough race. Illinois Republican Party Chairman

Tim Schneider


Bruce Rauner

kick obligatory Gov. Pat Quinn since a GOP “built a biggest belligerent diversion Illinois has ever seen.”

The “ground game” has turn something of a domestic cliché in a past few choosing cycles, mostly renowned from a “air game,” referring to a use of debate resources to run commercials for possibilities over radio and radio airwaves.

“Ground game” and “air game” are metaphors that come directly from a football field. In a 1920s, college football teams became increasingly reliant on a brazen pass, afterwards a comparatively new innovation. The “ground game” came to report how a offense could benefit yards by out-of-date rushing rather than adorned passing.

A 1921 essay in a Charlotte Observer previewed a matchup between a North Carolina State Wolfpack and a Davidson Wildcats by observant that “the aerial game” was approaching to be “used extensively by both teams,” while “a good belligerent diversion if successful is also hazardous.”

It would take another 60 years for a football terms to enter a domestic margin of play. In a 1981 mainstay for a Los Angeles Times,

Andrew Young,

afterwards between stints as U.N. envoy and mayor of Atlanta, done a jaunty analogy explicit.

“So get prepared for a large playoffs in 1982 and a Super Bowl in 1984,” Mr. Young wrote, alluding to a entrance midterm and presidential elections. “The distant right will take to a air. The antithesis will launch a new belligerent game, that would be helped by an atmosphere conflict if a income is available.”

“Ground game” and “air game” became domestic staples in a 1988 showdown between Michael Dukakis and

George H.W. Bush.

That August, a Washington Post reported that Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s participation on a Dukakis sheet was galvanizing Democratic audience efforts in Texas. “While a Democratic ‘ground game’ in Texas seems scarcely strong,” a Post wrote, “so is a Republicans’.”

In a some-more hostile movement on a theme, “ground war” and “air war” have also been pulpy into use by domestic operatives. (A “ground war” fundamentally requires “boots on a ground” in a form of grass-roots volunteers.) But a gridiron terminology has been some-more adored of late, maybe since troops metaphors seem a bit artificial for activities as harmless as door-to-door canvassing and manning phone banks.

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