Does party organization still matter? Much of the party literature suggests that politicians, who can use substitutes like mass media to win votes, lack incentives to invest in party organization. Yet it remains an electoral asset, especially at lower levels of government. Evidence from Brazil's Workers' Party (PT) indicates that party elites invest in organization when they prioritize lower-level elections and that this investment delivers electoral returns. In the mid-2000s, the PT strengthened its support across levels of government in the conservative, clientelistic Northeast. Drawing from underutilized data on party offices, this article shows that organizational expansion contributed substantially to the PT's electoral advances in the Northeast. While President Lula da Silva's (PT) 2006 electoral spike in the Northeast resulted from expanded conditional cash transfers, the PT's improvement at lower levels followed from top-down organization building. The PT national leadership deliberately expanded the party's local infrastructure to deliver electoral gains.
Why party organization still matters: The Workers' Party in Northeastern Brazil