No Victory Lap for Romney Yet
Put the cork back in the champagne. Mitt Romney hasn't won the presidency yet. In fact, in battleground states, though the momentum has clearly been with Romney, the contests are still too close to call. And close contests are about getting out the vote. Don't underestimate the Obama campaign's capacity to turnout its voters or its work thus far in pushing early voting among key constituencies.
The general impression is that President Barack Obama and Democrats have better "ground games" in most key states than do the Romney campaign and Republicans.
As was reported by Molly Ball in the Atlantic on Wednesday:
While Obama's office in Sterling [Virginia] is one of more than 800 across the country -- concentrated, of course, in the swing states -- Romney commands less than half that number, about 300 locations. In the swing states, the gap is stark.
Then there's this from Ball:
In a technical sense, the Romney campaign actually does not have a ground game at all. It has handed over that responsibility to the Republican National Committee, which leads a coordinated effort intended to boost candidates from the top of the ticket on down. The RNC says this is an advantage: The presidential campaign and the local campaigns aren't duplicating efforts, and the RNC was able to start building its ground operation to take on Obama in March, before Romney had secured the GOP nomination.
But in a limited number of site visits made by Ball, she found that while the Democrats' ground operations were almost exclusively focused on the president's re-election, the Republican efforts were more diffuse, with local candidates also receiving resources.
Again, from Ball's report:
"Community organizing is not a turnkey operation," [Obama operative] Jeremy Bird says. "You can't throw up some phone banks in late summer and call that organizing. These are teams that know their turfs -- the barber shops, the beauty salons; we've got congregation captains in churches. These people know their communities. It's real, deep community organizing in a way we didn't have time to do in 2008."
Republican presidential campaigns have typically relied more heavily on paid media to drive their messages. The GOP has also leaned on phone banking for outreach. Paid media are critical components of any campaign, Democrat or Republican, but reaching voters at the grassroots (person-to-person) is critical in breaking through the clutter and creating advocacies - authentic voices - within communities that are credible with voters.
From a CBS report by Sarah B. Boxer in June, Romney operatives had this reaction to the plethora of Obama field offices and outreach by Democratic volunteers:
Romney staffers are less polite when challenged on their lack of ground game, rolling their eyes and thoroughly unconvinced, it seems, that the myriads of OFA offices and volunteers will do much to convince independent voters to re-elect the president in the fall.
A similar reaction by GOP operatives was reported in the Ball article.
In an October 21 article, The Washington Times gave a more upbeat assessment of Republican ground game efforts in critical states:
"The biggest single change in our Ohio ground game is changing from phones to doorknobs," Mr. Bennett said. "People screen calls or the calls go into answering machines - not the same as talking to a voter."
In Virginia, another key state Mr. Obama captured four years ago, [Republican] volunteers have rapped on 11 times as many doors as they did in all of 2008, the RNC said.
But in terms of early voting in the critical swing state of Ohio, Rasmussen Reports asserts:
In Ohio, the race is now tied at 48%. Romney is trusted more than Obama on economic issues and energy policy, while Obama has the edge on national security. The president has a 10-point advantage among those who have already voted. [Italics added]
Rasmussen will release post-third debate statistics on Friday.
It's estimated that as many as 40% of voters will cast ballots before Election Day. That's a sizeable minority of voters, if realized.
The reason why the Obama campaign has strongly encouraged early voting (note Michele Obama's public declaration of having already cast her ballot) is to freeze votes for the president before Romney builds further momentum. And early voting, in many regards, is more reliable for Democrats because their constituencies may be less motivated to turnout on November 6 if the president looks like a loser.
The optimism among Republicans and Romney supporters for the governor's chances of winning the presidential sweepstakes is justified. But the election is still too close to call, and the Obama campaign hasn't thrown in the towel. In fact, the president and his team are redoubling their efforts.
So, no victory lap for Mitt Romney - not yet. Recall in 2000, George W. Bush eased up on the throttle in the last couple of weeks in his race against Vice President Al Gore. It was a miscalculation that came close to costing Bush the election. Romney needs to get back on offense, hammering the president and, at least, permitting Paul Ryan to raise questions about the president's judgment and veracity about the Benghazi debacle (particularly in light of the leaked State Department emails).