Taking a look at the previous post, where I predict the final presidential election result, I’m realizing that my prediction basically amounts to this: Barack Obama will win every state he’s leading in and every state that’s a toss-up, except for Montana and North Dakota. On the face of it, that seems like a fairly, if not overly, optimistic take on things. But here’s why I’m so confident, in four words or less: Get. Out. The. Vote.
In the last week, John McCain has pulled most of his resources out of the get-out-the-vote ground game and poured it all into television ads:
The decision to finance a final advertising push is forcing McCain to curtail spending on Election Day ground forces to help usher his supporters to the polls, according to Republican consultants familiar with McCain’s strategy.
The vaunted, 72-hour plan that President Bush used to mobilize voters in 2000 and 2004 has been scaled back for McCain. He has spent half as much as Obama on staffing and has opened far fewer field offices. This week, a number of veteran GOP operatives who orchestrate door-to-door efforts to get voters to the polls were told they should not expect to receive plane tickets, rental cars or hotel rooms from the campaign.
But television ads and robocalls don’t get people to the polls. Cars get people to the polls. Volunteers offering to help people get to the polls gets people to the polls.
McCain’s move isn’t completely crazy. As Nate Silver at 538 has pointed out several times, McCain needs the polls in every state to tighten about five points to even have a shot at picking off enough battlegrounds to win the electoral college. Television ads are more likely than get-out-the-vote efforts to have this kind of nationwide effect. The problem is, McCain’s television ads aren’t moving the numbers at all, and he’s still down about 5 and 11 points in every national poll and tracker. Which means that McCain is working from at least a 5-point deficit, AND he’s going to be turning out less voters.
Think of it like this. There’s 100 voters in a room; 53 supporting Barack Obama, 47 supporting John McCain. For McCain to win a vote from the people in that room, he has to either convince 3 or more Obama supporters to switch sides, or he has to make sure that all 47 of his people actually vote, while maybe 6 or 7 Obama supporters flake out and stay home. McCain’s problem is two-fold: 1) In the last few weeks, he hasn’t been able to convince any of those 53 Obama supporters to switch sides; and 2) Because he put all his resources into the side-switching tactics, he now has very few resources left to get the 47 people who are on his side to actually get out and vote. So in the end, Obama is going to use his superior ground game resources to turn out something like 50 of his supporters (a 95% turnout rate), while McCain is only going to get 42 of his supporters to show up and vote (90% turnout). That’s an 8-point loss in a room McCain only trailed in the polls by 5 in.
I’m pretty confident that with increased African-American turnout that has amounted to a self-propelled get-out-the-vote advantage, plus the enormous ground game advantage Obama has (more volunteers, more offices, much more voter contact), that things state-by-state are going to look a lot like the hypothetical of that room.
If you need evidence of how much stronger Obama’s ground efforts are, Ben Smith is posting a lot of good anecdotal stories today from reader e-mails. 538′s “Road to 270″ series also has a lot of really good on-the-ground evidence from correspondent Sean Quinn. And Josh Marshall posted this video yesterday of Politico’s Roger Simon on MSNBC, discussing the sheer magnitude of Obama’s GOTV advantage: