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Can Dems Match GOP Ground Game?

Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger have an article in Sunday's L.A. Times "The GOP knows you don't like anchovies," which paints a daunting snapshot of the GOP's data-mining and voter turn-out machine. The article's exhibit "A" describes a strong GOP ground game in the recent CA-5 election in San Diego:

Democrats appeared to enjoy yet another advantage: More absentee ballots were being submitted by Democratic voters than by Republicans. The advantage did not last long. Jolted to life, the GOP machinery revved into high gear as activists poured into the district. They scoured the party's computer database for sympathetic voters who had requested absentee ballots but had not yet submitted them, knocked on their doors and called them on the phone. Suddenly, thousands of additional votes had been secured, and by election day, the GOP had turned around a costly deficit with 10,000 more Republicans than Democrats voting absentee.

The authors see the GOP having a nation-wide high-tech edge, including "the most sophisticated vote-tracking technology around." They cite "Voter Vault," a database program that tracks voters by "personal hobbies, professional interests, geography even by their favorite brands of toothpaste and soda and which gym they belong to." It was highly effective in targeting key constituencies in individual districts, according to Hamburger and Wallsten:

...The new-and-improved GOP database helped Republicans begin to peel away select pieces of the old Democratic base, such as politically conservative and pro-Israel Jews, as well as socially conservative blacks, Latinos and blue-collar workers. In Cleveland, Republicans in 2004 compiled a list of Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants who they knew backed Bush's stance against Islamic terrorism, then organized a rally entirely in Russian on the Sunday before the election.

Wallsten and Hamburger point out that the GOP leaders have set a new standard for mining federal government databases:

All administrations are political, of course. But never before has the White House inserted electoral priorities into Cabinet agencies with such regularity and deliberation. Before the 2002 midterm elections, for instance, Rove or Mehlman visited with the managers of many federal agencies to share polling information and discuss how policy decisions might affect key races.

Democrats also have formidable ground game assets, like unions and advanced expertise in on-line fund-raising. But it's clear Democratic campaign strategists must now assume a substantially-stronger GOP voter turn-out program -- and plan accordingly.