‘Operation Ohio’ Hits Italy’s Election Campaign

Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my story on how Italian politicians are trying out American campaign tactics.

On a bright winter morning in Monza, a town near Milan in Italy’s Lombardy region, a few dozen young political activists walk through neighborhoods rustling up votes for their candidate, Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the center-left Democratic Party. Many of the volunteers have traveled from distant cities. “The idea was to come where it’s really needed,” says Elly Schlein, who took a bus from Bologna, some 140 miles away. “Everybody is realizing that Lombardy is where the game will be played.”

Busing in outsiders to knock on doors is an age-old election-year practice in the U.S. Not so in Italy, where campaigns are usually top-down and focus on national rather than local concerns. But this is an unusual election year. No candidate for prime minister has sewn up enough support to be confident of forming a government after ballots are cast on Feb. 24-25; the contest will likely be decided by voters in a handful of closely contested areas, including Lombardy and Sicily, which have emerged as the Italian equivalent of U.S. swing states. To win their support, political pros in Italy are experimenting with American campaign tactics.

Read the rest.