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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

With this morning’s Jonathan Martin front-page piece on McCain’s organizing surge at Politico, it looks like continuing the discussion of ground game is just the order of the day. From the piece, it seems clear that the campaign shake-up has resulted in a far more aggressive effort at voter outreach. For Republican partisans, this can only be good news.

However, we need a bit of a reality check, since we are talking about voter contacts – numbers of phone calls and door-knocks. According to Martin’s reporting, the McCain camp made 20,000 combined door knocks and phone calls nationwide in the previous entire month. (Yes, you read that right.) With the resurgence, they are up to 324,000 in one week, an approximately 6500% increase.

To the uninitiated, that may sound impressive. Led by Steve Hildebrand, the Obama camp has been tight-lipped about its own numbers, as Martin’s piece notes. But the reality is that on Monday alone in just Ohio, without revealing my sources, the Obama campaign made 109,029 persuasion phone calls. From general experience, contact rates are about 25%, meaning that for every phone call or door knocked, about 1 in 4 voters gives you information about their support or about their party or what issues are most important to them in helping them make up their mind. In turn, this information re-loops into the voter file and flows downstream until it’s the final GOTV push.

Let’s do some quick math. Martin’s reporting suggests to us based on that ratio that nationwide, in one week, the McCain campaign talked to approximately 81,000 voters. The Obama campaign talked to about 27,000 in one state in one night. If we make a reasonable guess that Ohio has something like one-fifteenth of Obama organizers and volunteers, that’d be 405,000 voters contacted in one night nationwide. In 7 days, that’s 2,835,000 voters contacted, compared to the McCain 81,000, a thirty-five-fold edge.

Granted, 35-1 is a rough estimate and an improvement over the incomprehensibly sad 567-to-1 edge McCain was apparently giving away last month, but these field programs are still not in the same ballpark. One is an NFL team and the other is now a high school JV team.

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