A few moments ago, I spoke to Deputy RNC chair Frank Donatelli about, among other things, the Republican ground game for this cycle.
I asked him about a statement from a few months ago by McCain ground game guru Mike DuHaime, assessing that the turnout effort will be greater than Bush-Cheney 2000, but less than Bush-Cheney 2004. “The Bush-Cheney 2004 turnout effort was able to begin in 2003, and they had a much longer time for run-up and organization,” Donatelli said. “I’m not going to say we have that kind of time, but because of influx of volunteers after the Palin, we can do substantially more than what we did in 2000.”
“We’re conservatives, so our instinct is to learn to do more with less. We have better technology, but less time for preparation than in 2004. We have more experience in good targeting, and sending selected messages to very discrete voter pools. We’re using the latest technology to get people absentee ballots and hopefully get them to vote for us. Once they vote, we don’t have to call or mail or contact them any further, allowing us to focus our resources on a smaller remaining pool.”
“On the [Democratic] side, a lot of the sense that they’ve made progress in this area is anecdotal. I’ll share an anedote of my own — I was traveling to a half dozen states before the convention, addressing some state parties. One of our longtime Republicans said to me, ‘Two Obama volunteers visited me yesterday, asking if I’m registered to vote.’ I said, ‘If they don’t know that you’re already registered, and if they don’t know what a Republican supporter you are, I don’t know that they’re targeting that well.”
“The two states that we saw where Obama’s ground game had been most enhanced during the primary were North Carolina and in Pennsylvania. In North Carolina, we’re gonna win. It’s just that simple. In Pennsylvania, the polls are dead even, even after Obama spent six weeks campaigning there in the spring and spent millions in advertising during the primary. ”
“They’ve made a big deal out of increasing the electoral map put more states in play, but as Yogi Berra said, ‘it’s deja vu all over again,’ with a few new ones thrown in. They’ll argue that there are more red states in play, but that’s partially because there are more red states to begin with.”
He said he saw four blue states in play (not counting New Hampshire, which he categorized as “purple”): Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
I asked whether the GOP might have an advantage in that it Midwest-heavy selection of targeted states had cheaper advertising rates than some of the bigger ones the Democrats wanted to pick up – Virginia, Colorado, Florida.
“In Virginia, they’ll have to buy in the DC suburbs, which is expensive… I think Minnesota and Wisconsin are the most affordable. In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is the biggest market, and it’s the most expenisve. Ohio has a lot of media markets, but none are so overwhelming. Basically, we’re fine financially. We’re going to have enough to compete everywhere we want to compete.”
“Starting early next week, I think you’ll see a lot of interest in Friday’s debate. It may draw the highest numbers we’ve ever seen, and I think that for the v.p. debate, you’ll see a tremendous amount of interest. We feel good about that. Senator McCain is much better at giving answers off the cuff, and Obama has some trouble when he doesn’t have his teleprompter.”