What the "Likely Voter" Models are Missing: Obama's Legendary Ground Game

The media and the pollsters, as if right on queue, have started feeding the masses the "news" that the "race for president is tightening." I have made the case that most of that is horse manure, but I have also made the case in the same breath that the universe of who votes will determine who wins this election. In that vein, let's talk a little bit about the polling universes. Gallup recently switched to hilighting "likely voter" numbers rather than registered voters, but today's numbers from Gallup shows a tie on likely voters while the president is ahead 50-45 nationally among registered voters. A CNN/ORC poll from Ohio put Mitt Romney within 4 points of the President (51-47) among who they consider "likely" voters, whereas the same poll's registered voter preferences showed the president with a commanding 10-point (53-43) lead.

So, why does that matter? Aren't likely voters what should be looked at this late in the game? Not exactly. Firstly, the newly registered are almost never considered 'likely', since they have no voting history (it's like having no credit). Given the way pollsters determine who is a likely voter - which includes a given person's voting history - the "likely" voter universe is always skewed towards conservatives. This is one of the pitfalls of the Left - we're good at yelling loudly and shooting our own people in a circular firing squad, but we are not good at voting. Conservatives vote far more consistently than liberals. Want evidence? See 2010, when Democrats, at the insistence of the loud, whiny media voices, stayed home handed the Speakership to John Boehner.

But in terms of polling, that still makes sense, right? I mean, if liberals don't vote as often, it's no wonder they don't count as likely to vote. Right, except for one thing: the OFA turnout machine. President Obama's ground-game is legendary, and the most overlooked story of this election cycle. Here's how the ground-game is playing out in numbers right now, by a couple of metrics.

Number of campaign workers employed in battleground states (courtesy of The Washington Post):


Next, we have the numbers for the number of field offices for both Romney and Obama (courtesy of Seth Masket of The Mischiefs of Faction):


This is where the ground game stands. Or rather, this is where the ground game stood approximately at the end of August. My guess would be that if anything, the Obama campaign has extended that advantage.

It shouldn't come to anyone as a surprise that the President's campaign has a much superior ground organization. What Mitt Romney was hoping to beat that out with was lies amplified by the media and a gob of money. Much of the media does seem to be going along nicely with Romney's lies of late, but the money thing hasn't turned out as advantageous for Romney as he'd hoped. Last month, Obama raised a whopping $181 million, 98% of it in small chunks of $250 or less. While Romney has yet to release his September numbers, he'd have to have raised an impossible $360 million in the month to pull even with the president's total over this campaign.

The flip side of this is, of course, the Super PACs, which have heavily favored Romney. But even they cannot make up for the campaign cash advantage. Here's why: that money is mostly spent in ads, and they do not get the same legally mandated low advertising rates that campaigns get. Campaign money always gets more bang for the buck.

The campaign cash advantage and the advantage in the ground game are critical when it comes to getting out the vote. Especially when it comes to getting out the vote of the people who pollsters don't consider 'likely' to vote. Young people, poor people, ethnic minorities. A stunning number came out of Arizona today showing the President with a 80-percent support among Latino voters in the state, while Romney is in danger of falling into single digits (wonder why no one is talking about that). Arizona is not a special case. Latino voters everywhere know and remember their scapegoating by Romney and the Republicans. And you can be damn sure the Obama campaign will get them out to vote, regardless of whether pollsters think they are 'likely' to vote.

I would contend that in this election, the registered voter numbers are more important than usual. Because in this election, pollsters are more likely to discount Democratic enthusiasm as a part of their discounting of 'unlikely' voters. In this election, pollsters are not likely to pick up on the minority, youth and poor groundswell (overlay this with women - especially young women) with their predictive models. In this election, the Obama campaign is getting those voters out. People are already voting in many battle ground states. In Iowa, four times as many Democrats requested vote-by-mail ballots as Republicans, for example. The Obama campaign has pushed the same thing in Florida. The President was getting the early vote out in Ohio himself yesterday.

The media has written and talked about Obama's doomsday before. People have bet against this president before. Exactly zero of those bets ever paid off. Get. Out. The Vote!