Get Out The Vote efforts.

Hillary's Robo-Call

I just received a robo-call from Hilary Clinton.  The call included a statement about Democrats "taking back the House".  The call tried to collect three things:  whether I was willing to volunteer, whether I intended to vote, and my email address.  It sounds like the start of Hilary's promised GOTV campaign.

Will the Unions GOTV?

Today's Binghamton paper covers the role of unions in New York's close congressional elections.  The national AFL-CIO has a $40 million warchest, and they plan to spend some of it on races in New York's 20th and 24th districts.  The 29th would get union attention only if the race appears to be close. 

Evidence of Democratic GOTV

The state Democratic party has opened a temporary office in Penn Yan.  Normally, offices in little burgs like Penn Yan are only opened during presidential election years.   According to the story,

organizers felt it was important this year, particularly with high-profile Democratic candidates, such as Massa, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election bid and Eliot Spitzer's run for governor.

This is concrete evidence that the Democrats are serious about GOTV in the 29th this Fall.

Hillary to the Rescue

Today's Wall Street Journal has some good news for Eric Massa. To prove that she can win in red states in 2008, Hillary Clinton is planning a big get-out-the-vote effort in the more Republican areas of the state, including the 29th. This article also acknowledges that the big leads that Spitzer and Clinton hold over their opponents might lead to some voter complacency.

The 29th is named as the "next best shot" for a Democratic pick-up after the open seat in NY-24.  Republicans are quoted as saying their polls show Kuhl and other incumbents running ahead of challengers.  Since that's a self-report of an internal poll, it can be viewed with the usual extreme skepticism.

Turnout Nuts and Bolts

The Kuhl site has an extensive FAQ section, all of which concerns the details of voting in New York State.

It's impossible to overestimate the importance of this kind of information, especially when it comes to registration and absentee ballots.  In my experience with political campaigns, a surprising number of voters are unable to navigate the bureaucracy of voting and therefore don't vote.  This is especially true for senior citizens, who are often unable to travel to the polls, yet don't know the  mechanics of the absentee process.

In New York State, all voters must register at least 25 days before the election, and absentee ballots must be requested no earlier than 30 days, and no later than 7 days, before the election.  This means that the election really starts in October.

First GOTV Call of '06

Enough of the speculation on get out the vote (GOTV) efforts in the 29th.  This afternoon, I received my first election-related call from the Monroe County Democratic Party:

Hello Mr & Mrs. ____________, This is ____________ calling on behalf of Eric Massa.  He's the Democratic candidate to replace Randy Kuhl.  We hope you have heard of Eric Massa.  If you haven't, he is a 24-year Navy veteran who is working to return integrity, service and accountabilty to Congress. For more information concerning Eric, you can go to his website or call his campaign headquarters, 672-5335.

This was on my answering machine, so I don't know if it was an awareness call or perhaps would have morphed into a fundraising call if I had answered it.  Nevertheless, its timing (~80 days before election) indicates that a serious GOTV effort might well be planned for the 29th.


Barring a last-minute special election for Elmira dogcatcher, the Kuhl/Massa showdown is probably the tightest race in the 29th.  Hillary's opponent will be laughably weak, and it looks like Spitzer will win in a walk, so turnout for this off-year election will be driven solely by interest in the Congressional race.

The conventional wisdom is that high turnout favors Democrats, so this is probably bad news for Massa.  If Hillary or Spitzer were in a tight race, they'd pour some of their massive warchests into a get-out-the-vote effort.  As it stands, they can save their money for future campaigns.

The 29th has existed in its current form for two elections.  In 2002, turnout was 174,631.  In 2004, it was 270,215, a 55% increase.  2002 was probably the most "off" of off-years:  the only major statewide race was a blowout for Pataki.   So '02 is probably a low-water mark for turnout, representing the "solid core" of those who always vote.  Amo Houghton took home a staggering 73.1% of the vote that year.

As the race progresses, I'll talk more about the turnout plans for 29th candidates.  But it's never too soon to speculate about the  national strategies of both parties.

Kuhl will probably use the same "72 Hour" strategy used by the Republicans to deliver Ohio in 2004.  This Republican plan combines polling data, automated calls or emails, and personal visits to turn out the base.  Assuming he's in close touch with the national campaign apparatus (I'm guessing he's joined at the hip), Randy's job will be to provide  enough volunteers or paid workers to call and visit voters on election day. 

Unfortunately for Massa, the Democratic turnout effort is looking like a casualty of disillusioned deep pockets and an internecine squabble between the Deaniacs and the Clintonites.   For a party that can't reliably turnout the faithful, this seems like a bad time for the head of the Congressional Campaign Committee (Rahm Emmanuel) to stop speaking with the Party Chairman (Howard Dean).

Today, E.J. Dionne's column mentions a 40-most-contested district turnout program that Emmanual is financing.  Even if the 29th is on that list, Massa probably won't be able to rely on as much help from the national party as Kuhl.  He better start praying now for a sunny and warm November 7.

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