One of my guys plugged into GOP circles in Virginia reaches out to me with the opening declaration, “Short attention spans.”
“That is the reason Team Mitt is holding back right now,” he says. “They know, as they proved in the primary, that elections are won and lost in the last two weeks and on the ground.”
Here the evidence has a few exceptions, as Romney was pretty steady in New Hampshire, but the former Massachusetts Governor did come back strong in the closing weeks and days of primaries in Florida, Ohio, and Michigan, and showed a modest closing bump in Iowa,
“With modern information overload, its not inconceivable for any candidate to turn things around in days. That was never the case prior to 2004 or 2008,” my source says. “If Mitt goes on an offensive over the next two weeks and performs well in the first debate, people will forget why they were down today AND Mitt will drive the comeback kid narrative.”
At first glance, one might worry about holding back for the final two weeks in an era of early voting. As NBC News notes this morning, “voters in 30 states — including the battleground states of Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Virginia — are now casting ballots, either via absentee or early in-person voting, per NBC’s Kyle Inskeep. Today, early in-person voting begins in Iowa and Wyoming, while absentee ballots are now being sent to voters requesting them in Alabama, Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. By the end of next week, voters in five more states, including Ohio and Florida, will join this list.”
However, think about who votes early: the diehards, the most enthusiastic, the folks whose party loyalty is so strong that their vote was almost guaranteed before the campaign began. Paul Gronke, the Director of the Early Voting Information Center. told NPR the early voters are “the decided – they’re partisan, they’re ideological, better educated, higher income.”
So the mission for the Romney campaign and the GOP right now is make sure your base is getting their absentee ballots in the mail, showing up for early voting, and so on, while readying the final pitch to those fickle undecided. As mentioned earlier, the remaining undecideds and persuadable voters are generally demographically favorable to Romney – male, white, married, disapproving of Obama and deeply pessimistic about the current direction of the country.
Looking at his home state, this former GOP official declares, “I like what I’m seeing on the ground in Virginia. We have reversed Democrats advantages’ from four years ago. We have eight Republican Congressmen. If they gin up their turnout, we should be fine. And, as you pointed out, much of the time and effort (rightly) is being spent on get-out-the-vote. From all signs, it looks like we are way ahead of where we were in that regard four years ago.”
Obama won Virginia by 232, 317 votes, or 6.3 percentage points, four years ago, so the Republican GOTV effort has to be way ahead of 2008 for Romney to have a chance.