The Washington Post

Can Mitt Romney’s ground game close the gap in Virginia?

Mitt Romney trails President Obama in a new Washington Post poll of Virginia voters, but the former Massachusetts governor does appear to have neutralized a key Obama advantage from 2008: on-the-ground organization.

Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have contacted about one in three voters asking them for their vote via telephone, face to face or online, according to the Post-ABC poll. Toward the end of the 2008 campaign, Obama amassed a 17 percentage-point advantage over McCain on voter contacts, 48 to 31 percent in an October Post poll (the 2008 poll did not ask about online contacts).

The poll finds evidence that each campaign is focusing their efforts on base supporters even more than on swing voters and independents. More than four in 10 self-identified Democrats (42 percent) say they have heard from Obama and a similar proportion of Republicans (44 percent) say so about Romney. Just 33 percent of independents have have heard from Obama, 29 percent from Romney.

Are all of these contacts by the two campaigns having an impact? Ninety-four percent of registered voters contacted by either campaign say they’re “absolutely certain to vote” in November, compared with 84 percent of those who haven’t been contacted.

And whether by persuasion or good voter targeting, voters who have been contacted only by the Obama campaign support him by a 42-point margin, while Romney-only contacts back the Republican by 31 points. Voters contacted by both campaigns favor Obama 54 to 38 percent.

Romney will need to do more than match Obama’s ground game to overcome his current eight-point deficit in the state - most notably among women where he is losing by 19 points. Nevertheless, the parity in voter outreach demonstrates that Romney’s campaign has learned a clear lesson from 2008, one that will likely pay dividends if the race is close.

Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.



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