Tuesday, October 24, 2006

GOTV - Fishing techniques that'll make Babe proud.

In today’s column, Yepsen digs into the turnout strategy for both parties and provides an early forecast on turnout success rates. From today's DMR:

…At first glance, Democrats would seem to be ahead. Once again, their absentee-ballot effort is harvesting more votes than the Republicans are capturing. As of Monday, Democrats had 87,214 requests for absentee ballots on file in election offices around Iowa. Republicans had 45,741, and independents had 24,941 - a total of 157,896.

That's good news for the Democrats, right? Maybe not. In all of 2002, there were 242,357 absentee-ballot requests. While there's still time for more people to make requests, it does not appear that this year's absentee-ballot voting will be as large as it was in the last non-presidential election, 2002. That's when Tom Vilsack and Tom Harkin were seeking re-election and bankrolled a huge absentee-ballot program.

One of the rules of Iowa politics is that Democrats win the absentee vote big; Republicans win the vote that's cast on Election Day. So the falloff in absentee ballots from 2002 to 2006 could be bad news for Democrats. While they are beating Republicans, it's not by the margins they've had in the past. That leaves Democrats open to being swamped by the superior GOP turnout on Election Day.

Ah, counter Democratic strategists: There is a reason for that falloff and the difference with 2002. This year, Democrats say they are doing a better job of targeting their absentee-ballot efforts at "weak-voting" Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. These are voters who vote in presidential elections but not in non-presidential ones. Or, they are new registrants. …

Wait a minute that last paragraph sounds like a whole bunch of Democratic wishful thinking. It’s well documented that the Democrats have not tracked their drop-off voters with the same relentless precision as Republicans and it stretches credibility to suggest that the Democratic field staff, brought to you and paid for by a variety of Team President PACs, would be that careful sifting through their lists. In fact, I don’t believe it.

A dear friend, a registered Democrat & union household in a low-income neighborhood told me a few weeks ago about how many persistent young things have arrived at her door to inquire about an absentee ballot this year. She has said no twice explaining that she always votes at the polls and for every Democrat on the ticket except for her state representative because he doesn’t show up to community events and the only time she’s ever met him, at the Statehouse no less, he spent twenty minutes talking about his kid’s bronchitis. Yet, the Democrats sent her and her husband absentee ballots.

My standard assertion to these types of anecdotal observations: I am sure my friends are not unique. It’s hard to believe with the very public fight the National Democrats are having on drop-off voters, that the Iowa Democrats have changed their game plan from two years ago. My hunch, the shipped in Democratic field staff are out seining for votes in the same way they did in 02 & 04 – under every rock & regardless of voting habits.

I believe the voters that are planning to vote, either early or on Election Day, will do so with more independence than we’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this election hailed as the year of the split-ticket voter.

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