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22nd September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

More Thoughts on the Potential Impact of the Ground Game


Yesterday, I found a picture taken during the Super Tuesday celebration in Delaware:

I had a blast working with these guys.  We were operating out of a Longshoreman’s Union hall in South Wilmington. My job was to get canvassers out the door and make sure that they knew where they were going.  If I remember correctly, we sent over 800 volunteers out canvassing on primary day.

Going into the weekend before Super Tuesday, Obama was behind in Delaware.  That Sunday, over five thousand people came out to see him at a rally in Wilmington.  That helped narrow the margin, but going into Tuesday, most polls had Obama and Clinton tied or within a point or two of one another.

Obama won Delaware by nine points.  Although some of that was momentum, a big part of it was the ground game.  I remember hearing on the radio that turnout in the Second Congressional District (Wilmington) was double what people had expected.  I also remember an interview with Hillary’s Delaware campaign manager, who said that she lost because of the extraordinary turnout in the Second.

Here is what The New York Times said about that race:

Obama won in Delaware, capturing two of the state’s three counties after recruiting large numbers of volunteers in recent days. His widest margin of victory was in the north of the state, in New Castle County, which includes Wilmington, where candidates fought for 4 of the 15 delegates Delaware was set to award on Tuesday.

Now I recognize that Delaware is not representative — it’s a lot easier to generate that kind of turnout in a densely populated small state.  But what I saw there — intensive canvassing in the days leading up to Super Tuesday, precisely targeted GOTV in densely populated areas, and a strong phone bank to back up the door-to-door efforts — is the same operation that the Obama campaign will have on the ground in battleground states come election day.

I’m not basing this merely on Delaware.  During primary season, I volunteered in five states:  South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.  With the exception of Pennsylvania (where I was assigned to the Hillary stronghold of Scranton), Obama had similar operations everywhere I worked.  In Virginia, for example, I helped manage a phone bank where 400 volunteers made over 35,000 calls in seven days.

The ground game will have a significant on the election.  Most analysts think the Obama campaign’s organizing efforts will net him two or three points in key states.  But as my experience in Delaware demonstrates, there also will be one or two places where it completely changes the race.

So come election day, watch the turnout in places like Gary, Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Evansville, Indiana; Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, and Toledo, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, State College and Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Saginaw, Flint, and Pontiac, Michigan.  The key will be to build up as much as a 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1 margin in Obama strongholds in the hopes that it will be enough to counter Republican strongholds like Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, and the rest of the “T” in Pennsylvania.

Somewhere on election day — my guess is Indiana or Virginia — the ground game will help Obama pull off an upset.  It could be part of a broader victory, but in a close race, it might make the difference between winning and losing.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 8:45 am and is filed under none of the above. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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