[Posted by Karl]
From Sunday’s NYT, a tale of the New South:
AS North Carolina Republicans tell it, the Obama for America volunteers stole in under cover of night and stayed, undetected — noticed belatedly only because of election results across the state.
“It was very scary,” said Chris Sinclair, a strategist for Billie Redmond, the Republican candidate for mayor in Raleigh. “You don’t know what’s going on until you wake up after Election Day and go, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened?’ ”
What happened was that candidates supported by Democrats trounced Republicans in the Raleigh and Charlotte mayoral races this fall, and even wrested control of the Wake County school board from Republicans associated with the Tea Party.
It was only after the damage was done that local party leaders learned of the hidden hand of thousands of Obama for America volunteers and staff members. Never publicizing their work, they went door-to-door across the state, successfully getting their voters out to the polls in a highly effective dry run for 2012.
However, the NYT’s Jim Rutenberg then cannot help but get distracted reporting on 2012 campaign messaging and such. You have to read almost to the end to get back to Team Obama’s organizational efforts. For example, in Charlotte, incumbent Democrat Mayor Anthony Foxx made ten times the number of phone calls as his GOP challenger. To put this in context, Foxx, the first Dem elected mayor since 1987, won 51.5% of the vote in 2009 and should have been vulnerable in an off-year environment.
Team Obama, led by a former community organizer, has reason to put stock in organization. They beat Hillary Clinton for the 2008 nomination in part by out-organizing her McGovern-style. In the general election, they blanketed battleground states with field offices, which likely contributed 53 of Obama’s 95 electoral vote margin in 2008. It is not surprising (if ironic) that in a tougher political environment, they would look to Karl Rove’s 2004 turnout-based strategy for hope. However, Rove found out the hard way in 2006 that GOTV efforts have their limits.
The GOP (and the right more broadly) will be upping its GOTV game for next year. Obama has to hope the fundamentals don’t continue to sour on him the way they did for his predecessor. Nevertheless, the tale of OfA in the New South should be a cautionary one for the GOP.