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On the Road: Albuquerque/Santa Fe, New Mexico

“… I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise and stretch in it mystified my longing. In inky night we crossed New Mexico…”

– Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

Adobe Houses -

John McCain and the Republicans are running a workmanlike ground game here. They now have ten offices open, up from five a week ago. Their volunteers often begin calling showing up at 8:30 am to make phone calls. Some call all day. In larger offices they’ll fill the twenty-ish seats for a full phone bank.

But it really doesn’t feel close to the Obama ground game. While Republicans are relying heavily on direct mail, the Democrats have a 4-1 office edge, and those offices are being worked. If you notice in our pictures a few more Obama volunteers, it’s not purposeful, but also not an accident. There are vastly more volunteers and the field edge is much, much bigger.

The New Mexico Obama field operation is top notch. From the state field director down through the RFDs and FOs (regional field directors and field organizers), this is a motivated, deeply talented bench. Without going into specifics, this is an A-team.

What we tend to do is get into town and try to go back and forth – Obama office, McCain office, Obama office, McCain office – so as to get the atmospheric feel and contrast. “Firewall” was the word Brett suggested for Obama’s operation in New Mexico, and it’s just right. If Obama wins Kerry states and Iowa (Michigan and New Hampshire seem most at risk), then adding New Mexico puts Obama at 264 EVs. Just one more state gives him the Presidency. Colorado, our next destination, seems the likeliest add. But Obama could add Nevada (and win under the 269-269 messy scenario, though some Dems would feel a bit of 2000 satisfaction from that). Or Virginia, or Ohio, or Indiana, or North Carolina, or Florida. To use a poker term, Obama has far more outs.

In New Mexico, there is a focus on the Obama side to get a 30/30 push – 30,000 voters registered in 30 days before the deadline closes October 7. Early voting starts October 18. As of just a few days ago, Dems had gained roughly 13,000 registrations, which is off the pace of Nevada, but still on pace for new registrations proportional to margin of 2004 loss (3-1).

The reality is that New Mexico is a complex state – its Hispanic population has been here for hundreds of years and is not the same immigration model in other southwestern states. Republicans have successfully wooed Hispanic small business owners and veterans. It’s not anywhere near as simple as majority-minority = automatic Dem win, as we’ve seen.

Still, there’s a reason Barack Obama urged Hispanic voters, who are nearly 40% of the population in this majority-minority state, to “vote your numbers.” What we’ve been seeing on the ground is organic outreach from community member to community member. By contrast, John Kerry came into the state and didn’t do much outside Albuquerque. This time, Barack Obama seems to have learned that lesson. His outreach to Native groups and Hispanic communities is clearly better than Kerry’s, though we’re still hearing that in some areas that outreach can be improved.

Obama’s Campaign for Change has 36 offices open in the state, probably too many to post in separate google map links. If you live in New Mexico, there’s probably one near you. John McCain’s campaign has these ten offices open, and in the counties (for example, the Grants, NM office we visited the other day) there are Republican Party offices open, often staffed by a county chair volunteer. There are 10 Republican paid field organizers.

The bottom line in New Mexico is that if an accurate poll has New Mexico tied on election day, Obama would probably win due to ground game. The Land of Enchantment is lopsided.

Training Volunteers -