Indeed, Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign’s national field director, said that the key difference between the two campaigns is that Obama has a database from four years ago filled with information supplied by voters. While microtargeting is important, he said, its value can be exaggerated.
“This is not a turnkey operation to put a phone bank in Manchester,” he said. “This is people ‘owning’ six precincts or two precincts, empowering them to own the neighborhood. They have been talking to these voters for years, and the information they know about these voters is the most powerful piece of information we have. That is the biggest difference between the Obama and Romney campaign” in the ground game.
Republicans acknowledged after 2008 that they had to improve their ground game, and said the efforts have paid off.
“Republicans over the last couple of presidential cycles were maybe slow to grasp the early vote process out there, but starting in 2008 they started to understand that this was the wave of the future,” said Rick Wiley, the Republican National Committee’s political director, who works on field organizing with the Romney campaign.
The basic act of door-knocking hasn’t changed for years, he said, but thanks to microtargeting “the thing that’s changed is obviously our ability to slice and dice universes [of voters] and switch, on the fly, what we’re doing out there.”
Indeed, Tom Rath, a senior Romney adviser, said the use of microtargeting innately appeals to the data-driven Romney. “If you are an organizational type like Mitt Romney, the idea that there is a process that can be measured and calibrated and tracked is very soothing,” Rath said.
The campaign, for example, hopes that support among hunters could be crucial. So, Romney campaign officials drove to Riley’s Gun Shop in Hooksett. The store’s owner, Ralph Demicco, hosted a press conference at which Romney supporters said their candidate is a stronger supporter of gun ownership than Obama.
The campaign put together a list of 350 people who are identified as Romney supporters primarily interested in the gun issue; those people, in turn, are expected to contact other people with similar interests.
A few hours later, a volunteer for the Romney campaign headed out for another round of door-knocking in Manchester.
Richard Christie, a retired federal employee, knocked on Michael Cote’s door. Cote, who said this was the first time someone from either campaign had talked to him, listened politely and revealed he is just the kind of voter who could decide the election.
A Teamster and UPS driver, Cote said he has been inundated with union literature urging him to vote for Obama. The Teamsters have their own microtargeting effort; the union president, Jimmy Hoffa Jr., who supports Obama, can be heard in a message on Cote’s answering machine.
Cote is sympathetic to concerns that union interests could be undermined by a Romney presidency but he is undecided because of the tough economy.
“The only thing that is preventing me from voting for Romney is the fact that I’m a Teamster,” he said. “I like Mitt Romney more than I like Obama but I’m still kind of torn.’’
Christie tried to close the sale, but Cote said he won’t decide until a day or two before Election Day, one of the last of the undecided. “I’ll be voting, trust me,” Cote said. “That’s a sacred right.”
Michael Kranish can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKranish. Kranish reported from New Hampshire, Wirzbicki and MacQaurrie from Ohio.