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All-volunteer army

Get Out the Vote recruiters can make a difference

Issue: "Too close to call," Oct. 28, 2006

Stops along the campaign trail in Minnesota, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Ohio showed me that an underdog GOP is not quitting and leaving the field as some wishful thinkers inside the Democratic establishment hoped. Instead, Republicans are revving up the fierce "GOTV" machine that debuted in 2002 and that delivered the presidential election in 2004 to George Bush with a turnout that continues to astonish students of American politics.

"GOTV" means "get out the vote" and the effort is hardly new to this century, but has in fact been a staple of American politics since the Republic's founding. In the aftermath of the Florida landslide in 2000, top Bush political advisors Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman set to work to revamp and reimagine GOTV: They succeeded far beyond even the grasp of most political junkies. Using demographic and marketing data familiar to America's vast network of consumer products companies, the GOP braintrust designed and built an information- and technology-driven GOTV effort that laps the Democratic effort.

Some observers say the GOP's GOTV is worth five points on election day. Whether less or more, few deny the enormous advantage that this 21st century gloss on the oldest election imperative gives the Republicans.

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First-hand inspection of various campaigns and interviews with candidates confirms that the machine is not only up and running, but very nearly completely staffed. As you read this, GOTV volunteers are contacting recipients of absentee ballots and asking them not just to vote Republican but to do so early so that their names can be checked and precious resources directed to a smaller universe of critical votes.

Volunteer energy and professional sophistication may help the GOP keep the majority in either or both the Senate and the House.

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