Democrats, Republicans Pursuing Ground Game

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In politics, as in football, a good ground game can provide a winning margin:

“If you take it to em, if you don’t make mistakes, and you keep takin’ it to em, hell, there’s no question who’ll win.”

Coach Woody Hayes built an OSU football dynasty on the ground game. Now presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are using aggressive ground games to get their supporters to the polls on November 4th.

In a huge third floor office in downtown Columbus telephones are packed rows upon row. GOP staffer Jason Levine says it’s called the Franklin County Victory Center, one of 45 McCain campaign offices across Ohio.

“And this is where all our volunteers come together to make phone calls and speak to other voters and talk to their neighbors,” Levine says. “And make sure that they get out to vote and that they’re supporting Sen. McCain and Sarah Palin.”

“Steve this is Sheila. I’m a volunteer calling on behalf of the Ohio Republican Party. Can I take a few minutes of your time and ask you five survey questions please? Thank you very much.”

Sheila Oxsher is a McCain volunteer:

“Are you planning to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin this November? Okay, you’re undecided “

To use the football metaphor political rallies are like long bombs: they make the highlight reels but what often makes the difference is work done in the trenches.

“There’s a lot of data that we collect through knocking on people’s doors, through making these phone calls,” Levine says. “But all of it comes together to help us make an informed judgment about who is going to vote for Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin. And we’re looking for those people to motivate them to get out to the polls and vote early by absentee and also to bring their friends and neighbors and family to do the same thing.”

“It’s called peer-to-peer contact. And it helped George Bush win reelection four years ago. The Democrats are using the technique, too.

The Obama headquarters in Marion is one of 70 local Ohio offices. It’s located in a county that has been a long-time Republican stronghold. So local Obama campaign staff and volunteers are working hard, running their own phone bank, distributing campaign literature and holding voter registration drives. It’s all part of the Democrats’ strategy to reverse Ohio failures in 2000 and 2004.

“I believe we have a great game plan,” says Mike Clark, a local Obama campaign intern. “We’ve had really positive response from the people here and I feel really good about Sen. Obama’s chances in Ohio.”

Clark says that when volunteers go door to door and encounter McCain supporters they politely move on.

“The people that we’re targeting are mostly undecided voters because they’re a very large chunk of voters in this area and around the state of Ohio that are undecided,” Clark says.

Other Obama supporters believe that even hardcore Republicans can be persuaded to think about voting Democratic. Last week songwriter Carole King visited a Worthington coffee shop to help press the Obama campaign’s initiative called Neighbor to Neighbor.

“If you’re committed to the Obama campaign, first of all, vote early, and second of all please, please come in and volunteer, please,” Kind said.

Friends can influence friends and neighbors, King said. And she ended her presentation with one of her songs:

Winter, spring, summer or fall All you got to do is call And I’ll be there, yes I will You’ve got a friend.

McCain and Obama workers hope they have a lot of Ohio friends who will be there on Election Day.