Years In The Making: The Ground Game Revs Up

by dday

Chris Bowers says that Obama has already won the election. Thanks for depressing turnout, Chris Bowers! But looking at his methodology, he may well be right.

However, I know that the Obama campaign is not going to bask in the glory and all head off for spa treatments this weekend. They're going to work their tails off right through till the last polls close on the West Coast on Tuesday.

To close the deal, Obama and his campaign must, in some ways, work opposite of one another.

The campaign’s ground forces, the likes of which this country has never seen, must make sure that the millions they helped register actually get to the polls. They have to continue knocking on doors to ensure that complacency doesn’t set in. Obama’s workers, paid and voluntary, have not traveled all this way to come up short.

As for Obama himself, he must maintain his steady, cool demeanor, which, ironically, was once viewed as a political liability. But now it has come to symbolize the candidate’s sure hand in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Dee Dee Myers, a former Clinton White House press secretary and now a political analyst for CBS. “If you look back, there have been so few incidents where he’s been drawn off message, or resorts to getting involved with the attack of the day. He responds — but he does so in a rational, not emotional, way.

Obama will not get in the way of his campaign in these final days. There will be tens of millions of phone calls, millions of houses canvassed, millions of rides to the polls, seeking to extract every last voter and get them to their polling place. And it's going to happen in every state in America. The ground game, which has long been Obama's big bet, is bolstered by a strong union presence, which will do their own work to reach their membership. There are new media initiatives on Facebook and Twitter. But this starts and ends with the Obama campaign recruiting over a million volunteers for these last four days. As opposed to blowing your cash on attack ads and not bothering to expand turnout.

Sen. John McCain and the Republican National Committee will unleash a barrage of spending on television advertising that will allow him to keep pace with Sen. Barack Obama's ad blitz during the campaign's final days, but the expenditures will impact McCain's get-out-the-vote efforts, according to Republican strategists.

McCain has faced a severe spending imbalance during most of the fall, but the Republican nominee squirreled away enough funds to pay for a raft of television ads in critical battleground states over the next four days, said Evan Tracey, a political analyst who monitors television spending.

The decision to finance a final advertising push is forcing McCain to curtail spending on Election Day ground forces to help usher his supporters to the polls, according to Republican consultants familiar with McCain's strategy.

Wow, is that stupid. Especially in a year where turnout will mean everything. We don't live in a culture where the electorate collectively watches TV and experiences the campaign in a one-way manner anymore.

This whole thing, the Democratic resurgence, the Obama campaign, is the realization of something started about five years ago in Burlington, Vermont, of all places, and continued in Washington after the Kerry loss, at a low point for Democrats.

His hypothesis was simple: To be a national political party, you have to compete everywhere. It was called the “50 state strategy,” and it was unveiled in 2005.

Remember 2005?

That’s when Karl Rove was building a permanent Republican majority, and when President George W. Bush was going to save Social Security by privatizing it.

In 2005, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, campaigned among grass-roots activists to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Campaigned to be head of the DNC? That’s an establishment job, hand-picked.

Howard Dean? What a loser.

But politics is all about a little prescience and a little luck. Dean had both. He had the wisdom to know Democrats could win in a lot of places if they bothered to show up and make an argument. The lucky part: The public has turned on the Republican Party.

It's a simple formula, but this article doesn't fully capture what Dean did. He put paid staffers into those 50 states so he could capitalize on any opportunity. He revitalized moribund state parties and created the neighbor-to-neighbor tool that can make Democrats a presence in people's lives all year round, not just before Election Day. He helped build a voter file that now rivals Republicans' vaunted data bank. He laid all the groundwork for Obama to build on and surpass.

In many ways, Tuesday could be Howard Dean's victory as well.

...Sean Quinn at 538 has more on the McCain campaign's ground game FAIL. They aren't funding it because they don't have anything to fund.

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