Both presidential campaigns start work in get-out-the-vote operations

Monday, November 3, 2008
Dean Hanson ~ Albuquerque Journal
Harry and Marita Weil of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, N.M., plan to vote for opposing presidential candidates for the first time in their 25-year marriage, and they've posted "his" and "hers" campaign signs in their front yard announcing their choices.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Barack Obama and John McCain uncorked their get-out-the-vote operations in more than a dozen battleground states Sunday, generating millions of telephone calls, mailings and door-knockings at the end of the $1 billion campaign. Together, they'll spend about $8 per presidential vote.

With just two days to go, most national polls show Obama ahead of McCain. State surveys suggest the Democrat's path to the requisite 270 electoral votes -- and perhaps far beyond -- is much easier to navigate than McCain's.

Obama exuded confidence. "The last couple of days, I've been just feeling good," he told 80,000 gathered to hear him -- and singer Bruce Springsteen -- in Cleveland. "The crowds seem to grow and everybody's got a smile on their face. You start thinking that maybe we might be able to win an election on November 4th."

In Peterborough, N.H., McCain held his final town hall-style event in the state that put him on the national map in 2000 and launched his GOP primary comeback eight years later. "I come to the people of New Hampshire to ask them to let me go on one more mission," said McCain, who is looking for an upset victory against Obama.

Polls show the six closest states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio. All were won by Bush and made competitive by Obama's record-shattering fundraising. The campaigns also are running aggressive ground games elsewhere, including Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.

All that's left now for the candidates is make sure people vote Tuesday -- if they haven't already.

After all, Election Day is becoming a misnomer. About 27 million absentee and early votes were cast in 30 states as of Saturday night, more than ever. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.

That has Democrats -- and even some Republicans -- privately questioning whether McCain can overtake Obama, even if GOP loyalists turn out in droves Tuesday. Obama may already have too big of a head start in critical states like Nevada and Iowa, which Bush won four years ago.

Obama and McCain campaigned on each other's turf Sunday. Obama was in Ohio, a bellwether state Bush won four years ago and where polls show Obama tied or winning. McCain visited Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004. He trails in both.

McCain and the RNC ramped up their spending in the campaign's final days and now are matching Obama ad for ad, if not exceeding him, in key battleground markets in states such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

After months of planning, the Republican Party launched the last stage of its "72-hour program," when volunteers descend on competitive states for the final stretch. Democrats unleashed their "persuasion army" of backers scouring their own backyards to encourage people to back Obama in the campaign's waning hours.

Obama's campaign reported that Saturday was its largest volunteer day, with more volunteers showing up to work the phones and walk neighborhood precincts than ever before in the campaign. Said Obama spokesman Bill Burton, "Our volunteers are completely engaged."

McCain's crew says theirs are, too.

"There's no doubt that we've got an uphill battle," said Rich Beeson, the RNC's political director. But, "We still have a lot of voters that we can and will turn out."

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