McCain Gets Into Organizing Game
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama got a big head start this summer in organizing supporters in Virginia, but there are now signs that Arizona Sen. John McCain's (R) campaign is starting to pay attention to some of the details.
At yesterday's rally in Fairfax City, people who attended were handed a sheet of paper with the names and phone numbers of two voters. During the rally, they were asked to call their list from a cell phone or when they got home to tout McCain's candidacy.
After the rally, nearly everyone who wanted them were given one, two, three - sometimes six or seven - lawn signs to put in their yard or distribute in their neighborhood. It appeared as if McCain had distributed thousands of lawn signs after the rally, and even more bumper stickers. Some Obama supporters in Virginia, meanwhile, have complained they are having a hard time getting lawn signs and other campaign materials.
"I can save the campaign $250 every time I put a bumper sticker on my car and save the campaign another $250 by putting a sign in my yard," said Camille Farow, of Oakton, who was stacking a half-dozen McCain yard signs into her car after the rally.
Farow said GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has driven her to get active in the McCain campaign. Her friend, Mindy Fellows, said the selection of Palin is also motivating her to get involved in McCain's campaign. "I'm going to headquarters tomorrow to volunteer," Fellows said yesterday. Fellows and Farow are both military spouses.
Keith Damon, a GOP committeeman in the 11th congressional district, said Virginia Republicans are the most energized they have been since 1993, when a coalition of social and economic conservatives fueled George Allen's upset over Democrat Mary Sue Terry in the governor's race.
"I am so excited I could scream. Sarah Palin made all the difference for John McCain, " Damon said. "It was a big struggle to get volunteers, but now people are coming in and volunteering and it was a mob seen at headquarters to get tickets" to the McCain-Palin rally.
But unlike 1993 and some other state elections, Virginia Democrats are also pumped up for the election. Obama has inspired thousands of new Democratic activists, who seem to be integrating well with the old-timers.
"Obama has a fantastic ground game in Virginia," said Mary Lee Cerillo, chairwoman of Fairfax's Sully District Democratic Committee. "We are going to make it happen."
An energized base of social conservatives in Virginia will be a potent obstacle for Obama's campaign. During the 2006 Senate race, self-described evangelicals and born-again Christians accounted for nearly 40 percent of the electorate. And these voters can be under-represented in public opinion polls.
Heading into election day in 2006, Sen. James Webb's (D) campaign advisers thought they had a 3 point lead. But when the votes were counted, Webb won by about 9,000 votes, less than a half percent. Many analysts think there was a last-minute surge in turnout among social conservatives because of the the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that was on the ballot that year..
A heavy turnout in rural Virginia also fueled President Bush's 8 percentage point victory over Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004, even though some polls showed a tighter race.
To counteract a GOP base lined up solidly behind McCain, Obama will have to redouble his efforts to turn out African-Americans, young voters and the 350,000 people who registered to vote this year. That's a tall order.
September 11, 2008; 1:26 PM ET
Categories: Barack Obama , Election 2008/President , Election 2008/U.S. Senate , John McCain , Tim Craig
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