Writing in The Wall Street Journal today, Karl Rove says the 2008 race will likely be won by the candidate who has the superior ground game. Presidential candidates’ national organizations typically grow to comprise tens of thousands of supporters, mostly volunteers, who do the unglamorous work of knocking on doors and picking up the phone to sign up new voters and get likely supporters to the polls on Election Day. It’s the nitty-gritty work that Rove excelled at, so his handicapping of where McCain and Obama stand in that department carries a lot of weight.
Despire the GOP’s sagging fortune, Rove counters the conventional wisdom and says the Republican get-out-the-vote machine gives McCain a leg up:
Mr. McCain has a superior tool available to him – the GOP’s Victory Committee, with its 72-Hour program that uses sophisticated targeting and vast numbers of volunteers to focus on Lincoln’s four tasks.
In 2004, the Victory Committee proved its value when the Democrats far outspent the GOP, but still failed to beat Republican turnout. Fueled by George Soros’s money, Democratic 527s (independent political groups) along with the Democratic National Committee and John Kerry’s campaign spent a combined $121 million more than Republicans. Yet the GOP registered more voters and identified persuadable households better than Democrats, and got 12 million more Bush voters to the polls than in 2000. Democratic dollars were no match for the Victory Program’s “microtargeted” database and detailed planning.
God-o-Meter has a question for Rove: who are the on-the-ground volunteers willing to staff the GOP’s Victory Program in 2008? In 2004, it was evangelicals. They’re not half as enthused about McCain as they were about Bush. So who takes their place this year?