Kerry Camp Canvasses Fla. High Rises

Democratic "condo commandos" will handle the high rises along Florida's Gold Coast, where presidential candidate John Kerry (search) hopes to find election-year gold among white, middle-class retirees.

Each recorded phone call prodding an absentee voter in Florida to cast a ballot will cost the campaign 8 cents; each personal call placed by paid staff, 15 cents; each piece of mail, 40 cents.

Republican women with Democratic husbands will be targeted for persuasion. So will veterans and their families and sportsmen.

The road to the White House went through Florida in 2000, and Democrats want to make sure they own the territory four years later. A draft plan to turn out the vote, author unknown and dated Sept. 3, is designed to complement the public advertising effort and secure the state's 27 electoral votes for Kerry this time.

"The Florida statewide vote goal, based on a 52 percent Democratic win number, is 3,314,240," the plan says. Four years ago, George W. Bush (search) drew 2,912,790 votes; Al Gore won 2,912,253.

Democrats confirmed the authenticity of the draft memo, a copy of which was made available to The Associated Press. Titled "Victory 2004 Florida Coordinated Campaign," it reads at points like a prospectus for review by other groups eager to put Kerry in the White House, or perhaps by more senior campaign officials.

Jenny Backus (search), a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, stressed the document was an early version of the plan ultimately put in place, but declined to say which of the specific details have been implemented. "It's no secret that Democrats are competing aggressively to win in Florida and we think we have a message and a candidate and a vision who has wide appeal across a wide range of Florida voters," she said.

The memo proposes that representatives of organized labor, trial lawyers and teachers join Democrats at a campaign "decision-making table," a plan that Republicans contend is illegal.

"Campaigns and parties are not allowed to coordinate with unions or other groups like that when developing communications that are going to go out to the general public," said Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a senior adviser to the Republican campaign in Florida. She said the GOP intends to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission as early as Thursday.

Backus and other Democrats defended the legality of the blueprint. So did Laurence E. Gold, general counsel of the AFL-CIO, who said there is no legal prohibition to the labor federation's involvement as outlined. "The coordinated campaign is the entity that is carrying it out. That is plain, basic law," he said.

Larry Noble, a former FEC general counsel who now heads the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, said the memo raises an issue serious enough to warrant agency scrutiny.

Even if Republicans file a complaint, it will probably take months for the FEC to investigate. That leaves Democrats free to implement as much of the program as they wish in advance of the Nov. 2 election.

In the broadest terms, the get-out-the-vote operation was designed to target two separate groups, including "the underperforming Democratic base, particularly in sporadic-voting African-American and non-Cuban Hispanic communities."

Among swing voters, special attention will be "paid to women in the Interstate 4 corridor between Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach."

A major effort is needed to "cut into the Republicans' traditional advantage among absentee voters and run up our advantage among early voters."

And early voting, which began across the state Monday, is a "potential gold mine and an excellent opportunity to turn out Florida's energized (and aggravated by 2000) Democratic base," the memo adds in a reference to the bitterly contested recount.

That's where the Condo Commandos come in, volunteers who can canvass high-rises for the early-vote program.

"The target audience of the program is white, middle-class retirees who live in condominium communities, primarily in the Palm Beach-Broward (County) area. ... $20,000 has been budgeted to pay for literature for condo commando canvasses and events," says the outline.

The Kerry campaign also is devoting significant resources to motivate large numbers of traditionally Democratic voters.

Black, non-Cuban Hispanics and other reliable Democrats who sometimes fail to vote are slated for four visits by paid organizers, two pieces of mail and 13 phone calls (nine of them recorded messages) on behalf of the Massachusetts senator before Election Day.