Once again, the Obama high command is making a big bet on their ground operation. The aim is to flood the zone: open up offices in battleground states, call undecided voters, and swarm the shopping malls to register as many people as possible. In this way, Democrats hope to neutralize the Republican super PAC advantage by out-registering and out-working the GOP on the streets.
“We believe we have an absolute advantage on the ground,’’ Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an interview.
But Republicans believe the Obama ground game isn’t the fearsome force it used to be. They point to electoral setbacks that Democrats have endured in the years since team Obama built its grassroots network.
Wisconsin, for one.
Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, said the Wisconsin recall should have been an easy “layup’’ for Democrats given that the party had been busing in “every hippie liberal and union thug’’ to help oust Scott Walker, a Republican. Mr. Walker won handily.
“What’s the proof they can mobilize?’’ Mr. Spicer said.
Voter-registration figures show some softness on the Democratic side, suggesting the Obama ground game has work to do.
Third Way, a centrist think tank, has been studying registration trends in eight battleground states. The group released a report in May showing that since 2008, independent registration has been rising. Meantime, Republican registration has dropped by 157,000 in these states; Democratic registration by 841,000. Neither party’s brand has been faring all that well.
Now that they're past the primary. Romney's campaign is working hard to only keep that momentum building. They have melded with the Virginia GOP and are fully taking advantage of a ground game infrastructure that was somewhat ripe for the picking in Virginia. When running for governor in 2009, Bob McDonnell set up nine offices across the state in order to get out the vote, and since Virginia has elections every year on different statewide offices, Republican volunteers and staffers have inhabited them ever since. Like the Obama campaign, they take social media seriously, tailoring Facebook and Twitter outreach to different communities, and hawkishly monitor when items are shared or retweeted. Also similarly to their Democratic counterparts, they have "neighborhood captains" -- people who lead volunteer troops in certain areas.
Different person-to-person retail engagement strategies are important in Virginia where plenty of shoe leather can be burned walking up mile-long driveways on southwestern farmland and patience can be frayed waiting for a voter to return home from DC-metro traffic in the northern parts of the state. As such, one person heavily involved in the ground game efforts says that since 2009, the state party has been picking "safe" districts and testing out different outreach mechanisms, to see how to maximize their outreach. David Rexrode, executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, says this is the election is where the results of those experiments will really come to light. With an election as close as this one will be, he says, "The ground game is good for a field goal." He's confident in the odds of the final pay-off. "I think we have a great opportunity to win here - we've put the time in."