Can a strong ground game help Obama stop Romney’s momentum?

October 16, 2012

More swing-state voters say President Obama's campaign has contacted them in the past month than have heard from Mitt Romney's campaign, and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Obama leading by a whopping 40 percentage-point margin among voters contacted by an Obama representative. Romney leads by just 16 points among voters reporting contact with his campaign. 

The two results are indications that even as Mitt Romney's supporters are more enthusiastic than ever, the Obama campaign is winning the hand-to-hand battle of door knocking and phone banking that will be waged all the way to Nov. 6, as Obama tries to rouse his 2008 supporters to cast ballots for him a second time. 

Of course, Obama has more at stake in winning the ground game this year. Turnout has lagged in the past among key Democratic groups, including non-whites and younger voters. Obama's supporters are also not as interested in the 2012 election as they were in 2008: 51 percent of his supporters are following the race "very closely" in the new survey, compared with 66 percent who said so at this point four years ago. 

By a 37 to 27 percent margin, more voters in tossup states identified by the Washington Post -- Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wisconsin -- along with Obama-leaning Ohio, say they've been contacted by the Obama campaign in the past month than by the Romney campaign. Contacts are much lower -- and more even -- in non-tossup states, where 19 percent have been reached by Obama workers and 18 percent by Romney workers. 

Nationally, registered voters contacted by the Obama campaign support the president by 68 to 28 percent, a margin that dwarfs Romney's 54 to 38 percent lead among voters who report being contacted by his campaign. 

Obama's advantage in vote maybe in part because his campaign workers are convincing. But a big dose of voter targeting also deserves much of the credit. More than half of voters contacted by the Obama campaign self-identify as Democrats (51 percent), while 35 percent of Romney contacts are Republicans. 

In what may represent a tough sell, Democrats make up one quarter (25 percent) of those who report being contacted by the Romney campaign. By contrast, Republicans account for just 13 percent of Obama contacts. Independents represent about a third of contacts for both Obama (31 percent) and Romney (33 percent).

The personal touch also may be making a difference. Among Obama supporters, 93 percent of those who report being contacted by the campaign are "absolutely certain" to vote or have already done so, compared with 83 percent of those who haven't been contacted. There is no such difference among Romney supporters: 93 percent of those who have been contacted have voted or are "certain" to vote, compared to 92 percent of Romney supporters who have not been contacted.

Obama supporters contacted by his campaign are also more apt to say they'll vote early this year, an effort that could overcome traditional Election Day uncertainty.  Four in 10 Obama supporters who have been contacted by the campaign plan to vote early (or have already voted) rather than on Election Day, while just 25 percent of Obama supporters who haven't been contacted plan to cast early ballots. There is no such difference in intentions to vote early between Romney supporters who have heard from the campaign (29 percent)  and those who haven't (28 percent). 

The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 10-13 among a random national sample of 1,252 adults, including interviews on conventional phones and with cell phone-only respondents.. Results for the full sample of 1,063 registered voters are plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; they are also plus or minus 3.5 points for the 923 likely voters. The error margin is eight points for the sample of 211 registered voters in toss-up states, seven points for the sample of 252 voters contacted by Obama in the past month and 7.5 points for the sample of 243 voters contacted by Romney in the past month. Full results and crosstabs are available here.

Jon Cohen and Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.

Read more on PostPolitics.com
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