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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will GOTV Trump Debates, Jobs figures?

Gerald F. Seib’s column “Key to Victory? Who Has the Best Ground Game,” at The Wall St. Journal doesn’t really answer the question in the title. But it does provide some clues.
Seib argues that turnout prospects for Obama-favoring Latinos and youth are dimmed by indications of low voter enthusiasm among these groups. But efforts are underway to correct a pending shortfall, including:

The Obama campaign knows full well that it needs to amp up these voting blocs, so it is trying to catch up with its 2008 standard. It will get some help from its labor allies, and months ago set in place a social-media strategy to reconnect with young voters, as well as a separate outreach operation for Hispanics.
…State statistics now show registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in five of the six battleground states that register voters by party. In most of them, Democratic registration advantages still aren’t as large as in 2008, but they are widening. Crucially, the Obama camp says voters under 30 make up more than half of new registrants.

Seib acknowledges the problem of turning out the evangelical vote when a Mormon and a Catholic are atop the Republican ticket. But, overall, Seib seems more impressed with GOP GOTV efforts thus far:

…In a recent conversation, Mr. [Ralph] Reed walked through the turnout math and how his organization is trying to affect it…White evangelicals and born-again Christians made up roughly a quarter of all voters in 2008. Yet Mr. Reed estimates that perhaps 17 million evangelicals didn’t vote or weren’t registered, including roughly a million who voted for George W. Bush in 2004.
That big bloc includes heavy representation in such swing states as Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and Florida. So Mr. Reed’s organization will spend some $12 million trying to get them to the polls.
Mr. Reed’s group has files with cellphone, email or other contact information on 17.3 million potential voters in 15 key states. All those voters will be contacted, many of them multiple times. Two million will get personal visits from volunteers. The message: Mr. Romney shares evangelicals’ values on matters such as gay marriage, abortion and religious freedom.

Reading between the lines, it appears that Seib may not have enough inside information about the scope and scale of Democratic GOTV to make a solid evaluation one way or the other. If reports that the Obama campaign has significantly beefed up it’s on-the-ground presence in Swing state communities are accurate, that could be the edge that makes a mockery of all the talk about the importance of the debates and monthly jobs figures. In that case, at least Seib’s call that “this year’s election may well hinge on a decidedly unsexy factor: voter turnout machinery” will be on target.

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