After Debates, It's All About Voter Turnout for John McCain and Barack Obama

Both sides say that they have effective get-out-the-vote teams, but Obama's side claims to be ahead.

By + More

Get ready to hear a lot about GOTV and the 72-hour campaign, because after the debates are over, the focus is going to shift to getting voters to the polls. On the Republican side, the talk is of the storied 72-hour campaign. Aides to Sen. John McCain say they've expanded it to last longer. Says political director Mike DuHaime, the program is now "spread over hundreds and hundreds of hours." In other words, he explains, it has already started with hundreds of volunteers—many from the Bush 2004 effort—helping to get the word out about McCain. Last week, for example, he says that the program made contact with about 1 million voters and plans to reach that total about every three days as the election nears. "We have people who have been there and done that," he says, calling the volunteers in the get-out-the-vote effort "battle-tested volunteers." The Obama campaign isn't worried about the recent surge in GOP efforts because Democrats believe they are way out in front in the bid to get voters to the polls. "We feel very good," says Obama communications manager Robert Gibbs. Obama officials say they have been building a homegrown GOTV team ever since nailing down the nomination, and that they've penetrated many regularly Republican territories with some success. Gibbs compared the Democratic effort with the Bush 2004 re-election campaign and GOTV bid run by the Republican National Committee, a year when the GOP turned out a historically high number of Republicans to back President George Bush. Obama's campaign has said for a long time that they don't believe McCain will be able to repeat that turnout. Gibbs also says that the Obama campaign has moved to sign up voters new to states and "disaffected" voters. "Changing the makeup of the electorate is key to the outcome of the election," he says. "Our turnout and GOTV operations have proven to be very superior organizations."