So, have we caught up
to the GOP turnout machine? Parity may or may not be in the cards (the GOP's list is on its third cycle, while the Dems is brand new this year), but we are better off than we've been in a while.
Republicans said they noted, with concern but not surprise, that Democrats had taken lessons from them. "Democrats are smart, and they have learned from what we are doing," said Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. "But I certainly think we learned a lot from what they did in 1998 and 2000."
Still, Republicans are hardly sanguine going into this election storm, even with the backstop of a get-out-the-vote operation.
Some party strategists, speaking on the condition of anonymity in offering a critique of their own operation, said they were worried that the Republican demoralization would sap some of the energy from the program, discouraging the final-weekend surge of volunteers that they found during happier campaigns. By contrast, Democrats are getting help this year in recruiting volunteers from an arena that has more often taunted Democratic officialdom, bloggers and groups like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and MoveOn.org, which has started sophisticated Internet-based turnout operations that rival what even some party committees are doing.
"We're in about 40 districts right now," said Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org. Mr. Pariser said his group had trained 70,000 people to use its Web-based program to call prospective Democratic voters on lists that MoveOn.org had assembled.
Conventional wisdom is that a good GOTV operation can be worth 2-5 points at the poll. Given that we have about 60 House races within single digits at this point, GOTV becomes monumentally important.
And whatever else one might say about the party committees and who should or shouldn't get "credit" if we win, fact is all three of them have invested heavily on the ground. Sure, Dean has staffed up the Nebraska Democratic Party, but the DSCC has spent big bucks all year on building a GOTV operation in the state.
Not all is going perfect -- the DSCC's ground game gets rave reviews in Nebraska and Montana. Its effort in Ohio, on the other hand, has a lot of detractors on the ground (which, if true, may not matter given Brown's suddenly huge leads in the polls). But fact is, we have more tools at our disposal to help identify and turn out our voters. And the Democratic establishment has finally realized the value of GOTV -- one of the least sexy (and financially lucrative) parts of a campaign.
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