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Does Obama Have the Stronger Ground Game in Ohio?

Regardless of the number of offices, the efficiency and effectiveness of staff and volunteers can multiply the efforts of a single campaign office and that’s where the GOP may be gaining an advantage. The Romney campaign offices are combining their efforts with those of other GOP candidates, so Romney Victory Centers are also Ohio GOP Victory Centers. It’s an efficient use of real estate, equipment, and volunteers who can campaign for multiple candidates during the same shift and even during the same phone call.

In addition, Fox News' Carl Cameron reported last Tuesday that the Republicans are experimenting with new data mining and computer methodology to find what they call "new persuadable voters." Have we reached the point where sophisticated digital technology has replaced the need for 120 field offices? We will find out on November 6.

Last week the Romney campaign released a report of their Ohio efforts with some impressive numbers about the ground game:

On Saturday alone, the campaign knocked on 123,348 doors, concluding a week in which 247,385 doors were knocked statewide.  That brings our total doors knocks since May to 1,463,156, in addition to the 3,738,469 phone calls we’ve made since then.  The last four weeks have shown steady growth in our door knocking program, and our Victory Centers are booming with volunteer activity. On Saturday, in Lebanon (Warren County), in advance of Governor Romney’s speech before 10,000 Ohioans, over 188 volunteers knocked on 15,032 doors out of our Victory Center there.  It was an amazing display of voter contact in a county that the Romney-Ryan ticket will return to a margin of victory comparable to 2004.

I voted Republican in this year’s primary, so I am on the official GOP phone list. Any time there is a campaign event in the area I get a call from the Romney folks. They also called (more than once) to suggest that I request an absentee ballot. On the first day of early voting, they called to let me know I could utilize that option. I’m not kidding when I say I hear from Romney’s people more than I hear from my mother. Their ground game has been largely focused on turning out absentee and early voters and “banking” their votes early so they can reduce the number of voters they need to contact as Election Day approaches.

After the final debate, Greta Van Susteren asked GOP Chairman Reince Priebus about the ground game in Ohio. He emphasized the importance of banking early absentee ballots:

I think we've got the best technology in the world. We've got our GOP Universe that we're tracking every day with absentee ballots. We're tracking them with municipal clerks in every county and every municipality in Ohio...where the ballots are, where the request forms are at, whether the ballots have been returned, whether the request forms have been returned. It's just like Abraham Lincoln said many years ago, "Find every Whig and get them to the polls," except for today, we've got better technology, bigger groups of people, more Victory Centers.

In addition to the official Romney campaign efforts, there are outside groups working under the radar to make sure he is elected. (Or, more accurately, to make sure Obama is not re-elected.)

The conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC), led by Ralph Reed, is micro-targeting socially conservative Catholic and evangelical Christians in Ohio. Reed claims to have millions of swing state voters in his database:

We have built a file, working with third-party organizations, with voter registration information as well as church membership and conservative and Christian book buyer data and other consumer data, a voter file of faithful Catholics and evangelical Christians that has 17.1 million voters in the roughly 15 or 20 states that will decide the outcome of this election. We’re going to be contacting every one of those households a minimum of seven times, including three pieces of mail, two phone calls. We have over 13 million cellphone numbers for these voters.

My 21-year-old son, away at college, is on Reed’s list, so I am also treated to those calls and mailings. We have received at least two pieces of mail from his group (it’s hard to keep them all straight) and a couple of phone calls. Though the official Romney campaign is playing to the moderates on social issues, FFC is making sure their targeted voters know that “Obama’s Radical Agenda” includes “attacks on religious freedom, same-sex marriage, waffling on Israel” and “abortion on demand.” They are also targeting liberal Senator Sherrod Brown.