Day -2: It’s all about GOTV

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More than two years of campaigning boils down into Get Out The Vote, the final week of the election — specifically the final Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The Obama campaign has put together field organisation that is unparalleled.

This morning, I helped get off a team of over 60 volunteers from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who are all heading up to New Hampshire.  Based from a now-empty former Blockbuster store, the “coordinated campaign office” (Elizabeth Warren is sending teams out from here too) is one of over 5,100 staging locations around America.

Jeremy Bird, the Obama national field director released a memo describing the magnitude of the GOTV operations:

This morning, as our volunteer Neighborhood Team Leaders opened 5,117 get-out-the-vote (GOTV) staging locations in the battleground states that will decide this election, they began to execute the final phase of a ground game unlike any American politics has ever seen. …

From these hyper-local Obama hubs, volunteers have signed up for 698,799 shifts to get out the vote over the final four days of this campaign…

At the start of GOTV weekend, our volunteers have made 125,646,479 personal phone calls or door knocks – not counting robo calls on auto-dialers, mail, literature drops or any other non-volunteer, nonpersonal contacts.

If the 125.6 million personal contacts number is accurate — and there’s every reason to believe that it is — then the Obama campaign has made personal contact with one person out of every 2.5 people in the USA. Unlike the Romney campaign, which counts “not homes”, robo calls and direct mail as a “contact”, the Obama campaign only counts a real conversation.

The effect of a successful GOTV effort can be between 5-15% increase in voter turn-out. While this seems relatively small, the margins in battleground states will be less than one or two percent, so GOTV will make a difference. This is especially the case because Obama’s GOTV efforts have expanded the electorate through voter registration and ensuring that “sporadic” and “unlikely” voters actually turn up at the polls (mainly through early voting at the moment).

There is a view that I’ve seen in some places that the early Obama voters simply takes away from his vote on Election Day. This is not the case. Early voting is mainly done (around 56% in some numbers I’ve seen) by people who wouldn’t vote on Election Day. This means that Obama can still count on reliable Election Day voters, while “banking” votes now that he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. Messina’s memo makes the point that with the lead that Obama has got in early voting, Romney would need to win over 55% of the vote on Election Day itself to win key battleground states — an unlikely proposition.

Up in New Hampshire, voting is only possible on Election Day itself, and for a small number of people who qualify for the absentee ballot who can send in a postal vote. This somewhat changes the dynamic for New England — because all the pressure is on Election Day itself, rather than being able to encourage those irregular voters to vote early.

My own experience has been that New Hampshire Obama supporters are actually very positive about being contacted and reminded to vote on Election Day.

There’s still two days before Election Day. Yesterday, Cambridge sent over 130 volunteers up to New Hampshire. There’s another shift leaving here today for the afternoon. That’s a pretty amazing GOTV effort!

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