Democrats' Ground Game Hasn’t Closed Enthusiasm Gap

“9 points”

-- Mitt Romney’s advantage over President Obama among those swing state residents who are “extremely likely” to vote, according the latest Politico/George Washington University Battleground Survey.

Democrats love early voting because having Election Month instead of Election Day gives them time to use money and manpower to offset the GOP’s inherent advantage on voter turnout.

But is it worth more than 9 points this cycle?

That’s the gap between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among those “extremely likely” to vote this year in the latest Politico/George Washington University poll of battleground states. While Obama holds a 1-point edge among all likely voters, he trails widely among those who say they are certain to vote.

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When the bipartisan team of pollsters that conducted the poll tried to use turnout models to figure out how much of that gap would be closed come Election Day, the answer was less than half. In the poll’s election model, Romney was shown winning by a whopping 5 points.


Team Obama’s strategy for the election has been based on community organizing principles, a cash advantage and having three years of lead time to get Democrats ready to carry the president to a second term.

The community organizing part has been reflected in policy and strategy as the president has sought to connect with and fire up all the different segments of the Democratic coalition. Whether it is offering conditional support for same-sex marriage or rejecting a oil pipeline from Canada, the president has offered lots of incentives for niche activist segments.

His advertising campaign has been hyper-targeted as well. Talking about birth control to single women or immigration to Hispanics, Obama has sought to organize the sometimes disparate parts of the Democratic base into a winning coalition.

But as the president saw his consistent lead evaporate in October, Democrats have increasingly focused on ground game and how a well-funded, long-term Blue Team effort in swing states would outmatch Romney’s poll surge.

Early voting is the key to this plan. While an individual Republican is more likely to vote than an individual Democrat, the president believes that with more than a month of lead-time in some key states, his massive, well-organized campaign can push out enough votes to win.

This is an unfortunate time, therefore, to have a hurricane bearing down on the East Coast. With so much ground to make up, the president can ill-afford to lose even a day in places like Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and, later this week, Ohio.

Republicans have always been subject to the vagaries of popular sentiment for a Romney win. If the party’s base had lost its pep because of a moderate candidate or a sense of looming defeat, it would have been doom for Romney. Similarly, if the president had tried and succeeded to again woo center-right independents, Republicans would have been out of luck.

But as it happened, the Red Team has stuck with Romney and thanks to a strong showing in debates both the GOP activist base and right-of center independents have rallied to Romney’s standard. The Republican Party may be outmatched when it comes to resources and ground game, but they retained an organic advantage on turnout. It’s not the crimson tide of 2010, but seems to be running substantially above what we saw in 2008 and 2004.

With time running out and a big storm about to buffet four key swing states, it looks increasingly unlikely for Democrats to use tactical advantages to overcome the realities on the ground.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30am ET  at