The air war is largely over. The Obama campaign, in my view, won that war by pouring it on early and going relentlessly negative. Now, the campaign is indicating that the saturation point is near:
As much as they worry about a deluge of anti-Obama ads in the coming weeks, the president’s campaign aides believe there is a point at which voters may start tuning out.That's correct.
In swing states such as Florida, Virginia and Ohio, TV viewers have already been inundated with campaign advertising. More ads are coming, of course. But if an ad runs and viewers simply don’t care what it says, does it help a candidate?
“The closer you get to election day, the less an ad can make a difference,” said Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, in an interview Monday.
At this point in the campaign, the abilities, character, and message of the candidate are the only things that can change the public perceptions of a campaign. This is, other than events over which there is no control. The ads get tuned out as voters simply begin to ignore the barrage and take sides. There is a law of diminishing returns at work here.
This means the ground game is the finisher.
Team Obama has enjoyed one particularly meaningful advantage: it began putting general-election infrastructure in place while Romney still had a competitive Republican primary process demanding his attention.Folks are already voting in North Carolina and more states will be coming on shortly. Now it is time to zero in on GOTV and banking as much of the vote as possible.
The president’s reelection team opened its first Ohio field office in mid-November 2011 — about six weeks before the Iowa Republican caucuses took place, and almost five months before Romney became the de facto GOP nominee.
Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf argues, based upon his experience as the deputy campaign manager for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid, that this amounts to a major edge. Eight years ago, Elmendorf pointed out, then-President George W. Bush and his campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, “were building a micro-targeting ground game, while we were slogging through the primary.”