Could the Election Be Over Before It Starts? - Political Hotsheet
Or, campaigns can know when to stop working a state and spend time in another. “In 2008, I knew that Obama had won the election a week before,” says Michael McDonald, a George Mason professor who has studied voter-mobilization techniques and used the same analysis the campaigns did. “We took a look at the early vote in Colorado. and it was implausible that McCain could come back.” (Obama officials hated this speculation because they worried it would suppress early turnout.)
As the daily vote tallies come in, campaigns know where to tailor their efforts: knocking on more doors in this neighborhood, sending a piece of direct mail about equal pay for women to that one, or just making people feel guilty. When we were by here last week, you said you’d vote. Some campaigns use a subtle form of coercion; they promise to stop calling and sending mail if people will just vote.
One of the benefits of all of these techniques is that it helps a campaign feel in control of its own destiny. A lot of campaign work can feel disconnected, but if you can measure your list against the number of people who have voted, you know you’re getting somewhere. In some cases, this work could also be psychological make-work, wasting resources that could be used more productively. But campaigns have convinced themselves in the past few elections that they can squeeze enough new votes using certain techniques that it can make a difference. The Mitt Romney campaign worked the early vote so diligently ahead of the Florida Republican primary that it built the crucial firewall it needed against the advancing Newt Gingrich.
Banking votes early may change what used to be known as the October surprise—the late election phenomenon that favors one candidate. In the 2000 election, news broke just days before the election that George W. Bush had been arrested for driving while under the influence. His strategists say they saw a sharp drop-off in evangelical voters who would otherwise have been predisposed to voting for Bush. If those votes had been banked, the voters couldn’t have jumped ship.