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Campaigns Talk Up Ground Games in Last Weeks of Election

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There are less than four weeks left before Election Day and activists for both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are working to make sure their supporters make it to the polls before or on Election Day. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports there’s a lot at stake in the political ground game in Ohio.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm

The national field director for President Obama, Jeremy Bird, says the campaign is using an unprecedented national grass roots movement to get his supporters to the polls.

Bird: “You can’t fake a real ground game, and if you don’t have one, you can’t compensate with a billion-dollar barrage of false ads at the eleventh hour.”

Jim Messina, President Obama’s Campaign Manager, says the volunteers working on the ground are the critical difference in getting the vote out.

Messina: “At some point, folks are going to walk out from their house after seeing TV ads from both sides. And they're going to look at their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers, their loved ones, and they are going to say, 'How I make a decision about who I vote for in this election, and if I vote?' And that’s the moment that our field organization is going to give us a real advantage.”

Messina and Bird say the volunteers have been registering thousands of new voters -- most of them are younger than 30, women and minorities. And when it comes to early voting, Bird says Democrats are ahead of the game.

Bird: “In Ohio, we started voting on Oct. 2. We lead there in ballots requested and ballots cast and we are ahead of the pace we were at this time in 2008 against John McCain.”

But Scott Jennings with the Romney campaign says his volunteers are playing a robust ground game too.

Jennings: “We’ve knocked on over 1.3 million doors. We’ve made approaching now over 4 million phone calls.”

Jennings says his campaign has made a lot of headway since the last presidential election.

Jennings: “This year, we have knocked on nearly 30 times as many doors and made five times as many phone calls as the McCain campaign did in Ohio in 2008. So one key reason that I think we are performing very well in the early voting period is the sheer volume of volunteer voter contact that’s occurring for the Romney-Ryan ticket.”

Jennings says Republicans are over-performing their party registration in absentee ballot requests in critical counties.

Jennings: “Though Republicans make up a certain percentage of the registered voters in a particular county, they are requesting absentee ballots at a much higher rate than the portion of the electorate that they actually make up. So what we think is that translates into very high Republican enthusiasm about participating in this election.”

Both Romney and Obama campaign officials say volunteers working on the ground will play a critical role in the coming weeks by making sure Ohioans actually cast their ballots -- either by mail, in person early or on Election Day.

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