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Ground Games: Who Has the Edge?

Rosalind Helderman

Two hundred thousand.

That's the astounding number of phone calls Terry McAuliffe's campaign says volunteers made on his behalf yesterday, as we reach the final hours before polls open for the Democratic primary Tuesday.

For weeks, McAuliffe strategists have insisted they were building a massive get-out-the- vote network they would activate in the final days before the election. Now, they say it's up and running. And, despite tightening in the polls, they have remained confident their ability to reach out and touch potential voters, including those who voted for president last year but don't typically take part in local elections, is far beyond anything Brian Moran or Creigh Deeds can muster.

McAuliffe's folks say their volunteers--more than 5,800 in all, they claim--use expensive predictive dialing software that saves time by queuing up calls one after the other. It's the same equipment used by presidential campaigns. And telemarketers.

Reaching 200,000 phone numbers would mean calling, on one day, 45,000 more voters than turned out in the 2006 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate between Jim Webb and Harris Miller. And it would mean hitting a number equal to the total number of voters Moran's chief strategist predicted a couple weeks back would likely show up on Tuesday.

It's become a truism in politics that ground games are what win elections. But McAuliffe's rivals insist that knocking on 20,000 doors--another claim the McAuliffe campaign makes about its activities yesterday--means you stand on a lot of porches of voters who have no intention of visiting a poll Tuesday. The Moran and Deeds campaigns say the election is about calling the right people, not calling the most people.

Who's right? Answers coming soon.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 7, 2009; 10:34 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Rosalind Helderman , Terry McAuliffe  
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Next: Where In The World Was Terry McAuliffe?


Posted by: VirginiaDem | June 7, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

As a voter I still don't understand how getting, let's say, 20 calls from a given candidate makes me more likely to vote for them than 19 calls or even, gasp, a mere 18 calls. The same goes with mailing pieces. Yes, I can see that three (different) pieces are probably more productive than one. But 10 vs. 12?

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | June 7, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many throughout Virginia will react as I did to Terry McAuliffe focusing so heavily on the support by the Governor of Montana and the Governor of Pennsylvania in the final days of the campaign? Wouldn't he want to minimize the impression that he's running based on money and influence OUTSIDE of Virginia, instead of bringing to mind that (according to WPost's data on this site)
that among the three candidates TERRY MC AULIFFE falls LAST in fundraising from Virginia? Brian Moran $3.4 M, Deeds, $2.7 M, and McAuliffe $2.2 M as of June 1?

It struck me as reinforcing the notion of him as a carpetbagger,
and It VIRGINIANS have given most money to Moran, and next to Deeds.
It will be interesting if the results on Tuesday reflect this order of the results, and yet again if huge bucks from out of state do not create true public support.

Posted by: VirginiaMom3 | June 7, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

The only robo-call I have received so far is from the McDonnell campaign. I am getting sick of Terry's ads being run up here, and all of the signs littering my local streets. I was happy to see someone took down the like 200 or so his team littered on an intersection in Ashburn. I joked about taking them down, and the next day, someone else did it for me.

Posted by: BurtReynolds | June 7, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

McAuliffe ran a dirty campaign that ruined Hillary's chances in the national election. Now he's turned his sights to VA, a place that never interested him before. My guess is he views this as a stepping stone to the Senate and then who knows what his dreams are. He makes my skin crawl so all those expensive mailing pieces and phone calls will make no difference in my vote on Tuesday. Send him packing elsewhere and let someone who truly cares about VA become our Governor.

Posted by: capone1 | June 7, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

A vote for McAuliffe in the primary is a vote for the republican in November.

McAuliffe takes the primary = McDonald takes the mansion.

Posted by: SoCali | June 7, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

200,000 ROBO-CALLS! Robo-calls, Virginia!

Posted by: sheilac91 | June 7, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

The McAuliffe campaign calls are real people, not robots. However, the number seems a little high... At the same time, while some people complain that they are receiving many calls, others are completely uninformed about this entire race, so they are at least trying to inform voters.

Posted by: killcaesar | June 7, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Just because you keep bugging people to vote for you doesn't mean they will. People get sick of the calls, and Terry doesn't seem to mind bugging people like me who have already told him twice that we're NOT voting for him. Doesn't matter. His people call anyway and ask who you're voting for. His ground game is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by: xcrunner771 | June 8, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm one of those people making "robo calls." I have actually had people ask me "are you a real person or is this a machine?" and I tell them- no, I'm a real volunteer making real calls and I'm spending my Sunday afternoon in a sweaty storefront with 20 or so other volunteers making calls. I think I may have contacted about 150 people total just myself. So the 200,000 may not be an exaggeration. However

TO ALL OF YOU WHO I HAVE REACHED TOO MANY TIMES: I APOLOGIZE. Sincerely, that's not the plan, but sometimes it does happen. And when people ask for no more calls, they are removed. At least that's what I do.

That said, it's surprising how many people have not talked to anyone and are interested in the issues. I talk to them and tell them about my support and they are receptive and interested, so the calls are paying off.

Posted by: patgdc | June 8, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

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