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Political Ground Game Remains Strong In Ohio

There are less than four weeks left before Election Day, and activists backing both Democratic 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. 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. "You can’t fake a real ground game and if you don’t have one, you can’t compensate with a barrage of billion dollar ads at the 11th hour." President Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina says the volunteers working on the ground are the critical difference in getting the vote out.

At some point, people are going to walk out of their house after seeing TV ads from both sides and they are going to look at their friends , co–workers and loved ones, and they are going to ask '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, with most of them are younger than 30, women or minorities. And when it comes to early voting, Bird says Democrats are ahead of the game. "In Ohio, we started voting on October 2nd. We lead there in ballots requested and ballots cast and we are ahead of the pace we were at in 2008 against John McCain," Bird says. But Scott Jennings with the Romney campaign says his volunteers are playing a robust ground game, too. "We’ve knocked on over 1.3 million doors and 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.

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. "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," Jennings says. "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 voting, or on Election Day.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.