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In Ohio, Obama's Organization Is Outpacing GOP's

In Ohio, Obama's Organization Is Outpacing GOP's

By Erin McPike - March 5, 2012


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- You need not look further than this critical swing state to see just how badly Mitt Romney's vaunted campaign organization lags behind President Obama's.

Obama for America already has more than a dozen staffers in the Buckeye State, working seven days a week. There are nine offices scattered throughout Ohio where volunteers gather every day to contact voters -- and Election Day is still eight months away. And what should send a chill down Romney’s spine is that the same thing is happening in every swing state.

Nationally -- and here in Ohio -- the unemployment rate is dropping, but it’s far from acceptable. The foreclosure crisis rages on, and there’s a lot of angst about what the Eurozone debt crisis might do to the U.S. economy. Consequently, even though Obama’s approval ratings have inched up, plenty of voters are still unhappy with him.

That’s where Obama’s organization comes in. Republicans scoff at the president’s experience in community organizing, but it’s the dynamic of that background that could help win him a second term.

The evidence was plain on Sunday, a blustery, snowy afternoon just 48 hours before Republicans go to the polls on Super Tuesday: About 15 volunteers gathered at the campaign’s Franklin County office here to phone former supporters they hope to recruit for the campaign’s 2012 network.

Since the president launched his re-election bid last April, his Ohio team has conducted 5,000 volunteer-led events, including house parties, phone-banking efforts and neighborhood canvassing. These events have now reached more than 650,000 Ohio voters, whether via phone, the front door or even one-on-one meetings, according to the campaign. The team is opening its 10th office -- in Youngstown -- on Thursday and plans to open several dozen more over the next few months.

It’s all about getting the 2008 coalition back together and building a network of volunteers throughout the state to serve as messengers in their communities, attracting independents and first-time voters through neighbor-to-neighbor contact.

And it’s already happening: When Romney was at the Daytona 500 last month and mentioned how he knows some of the race team owners, the Obama campaign was delighting in what it saw as perfect irony. That afternoon in Middletown, a Dayton suburb, several dozen Obama supporters gathered at a Mexican restaurant to watch the race; the race wound up being postponed because of rain, but these NASCAR-loving locals were networking for the president anyway.

It’s not that the Republican Party isn’t reaching out to voters; the GOP is just not doing it in the same way -- yet.

The Republican National Committee has started to deploy field staff in the major swing states over the past few weeks and will continue to do so. And despite the frictions of the Republican primary, the process has given the party an opportunity to find a new universe of voters, something Democrats haven’t benefited from.

Republicans also assert that the Obama campaign’s organizing -- while daunting for how early it’s being done -- right now is simply re-identifying its base of support.

That may be true, but the fact remains that Romney has not yet built an organization to match Obama’s, which could put the likely nominee in a tough position.

When Barack Obama was running against Hillary Clinton four years ago, there were hundreds of staffers on the ground and a team in place well before the March election in Ohio. And after the primary, they stayed and started working toward the general election.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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