Why the Obama camp isn't worried about polls.
Time: For the next month, the Obama campaign's ground focus is on finishing up the stunning gains in voter registration that it and the Democratic Party have made. Since January alone more than 3.5 million new voters have been registered in 17 of the 23 states tracked closely by the Obama campaign where information is available. Three states — Florida, Michigan and North Carolina — have seen increases of more than 400,000 new voters and 10 more states have recorded new registrations of more than 100,000. Though these numbers include registrants to all parties, in 14 of the states at least half of the new voters are under 35, a key demographic for Obama.
"We're on pace to hit goal," says Jason Green, a 27-year-old Gaithersburg, Maryland native who is Obama's National Voter Registration Director. "I would love to exceed goal." Green, not surprisingly, isn't in the mood to get specific about what that goal is, though he does say that it is "in the millions," and that the bulk of them will be in the 18 battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and New Mexico, though drives have been mounted in all 50 states. Green is also happy to share the news that they registered more than 100,000 people over Labor Day weekend, capitalizing on the wave of excitement coming out of the convention in Denver.
The republicans dismiss it:
Given their history as the pioneers of grassroots, get-out-the-vote efforts, Republicans claim not to be particularly impressed by the Obama operation, including its estimated army of eight million volunteers. "I get a kick out of them talking about organizing and ground game, get-out-the-vote programs, I'm glad they joined the 21st century for voter contact," says Rich Beeson, political director for the Republican National Committee, which is running the bulk of John McCain's ground game. "They're talking about things that have been done on our side for years now — team leaders, house parties, precinct captains."
The two sides' different approaches on the ground war were evident during a recent late summer weekend in Virginia. On a balmy Saturday morning over Starbucks coffee and Krispy Creme donuts about two dozen Republican canvassers met to go door knocking. The Grand Ole Party tradition has become a familiar ritual for this Old Dominion group, some of whom have been volunteering since before the Starbucks took up residence in the upscale Fairfax, Virginia, strip mall, not 10 miles from Washington. They spent the morning retracing familiar paths, calling on homes they most likely have visited before and, as always, completing SAT-style fill-in-the-bubble spreadsheets that are fed in to the GOP's massive voter files.
"I sure have knocked on these doors, countless times," former State Senator Jay O'Brien says of the once-a-month-or-so gathering, "I've been out here since 1991." (O'Brien knows the importance of new voters firsthand; he lost his State Senate seat last year when a surge of new voters came out of nowhere in his Fairfax district. "Frankly, I got as many votes as I used to get, but there was a bigger turnout by new voters who wanted to make a statement about other things and they were more energized by a Democrat," O'Brien says.)
About 30 miles south in Woodbridge, Virginia, Angel Thomas was canvassing for Obama. Thomas, 26, who has never before volunteered for a campaign, spent the last month downloading lists of neighbors from her mybarackobama.com website and, in her free time knocks on as many doors as she can. She asks her neighbors whom they support, tries to educate and convince those who are on the fence and logs all the information into Obama's website before downloading another list. While the GOP is still meeting in group once a month, Thomas and her eight million allies are canvassing 24/7.