With the presidential race in a dead heat and the election a little more than a week away, getting out the vote in such a swing state as Florida may never be more important.
However, the leaders of the Charlotte County Republican and Democratic parties say they pulled out the stops on their local “ground games” months ago, as part of long-standing strategies for victory.
And ruminations from some pundits that the Obama campaign has the superior ground game may prove exaggerated, at least in Charlotte County, according to Bill Folchi, chairman of the Charlotte County Republican Executive Committee.
“We have an enormous ground game,” he said. “The base is extremely motivated and stimulated, and we’ve got a very well-organized national campaign led by an outstanding leader who knows how to run the most efficient campaign.”
He was referring to the GOP’s presidential candidate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.
The local GOP has handed out 5,000 Romney yard signs to date and still can’t stock enough, Folchi said.
Two months ago, the party opened a second headquarters on South McCall Road in Englewood. That office is equipped with a “current-technology” voter data system and a phone bank equipped with 48 phones, Folchi said.
The voter data come from statewide GOP surveys. The volunteers use it to determine “which direction a voter is heading in,” Folchi said. Volunteers then contact the voters by phone or doorbell to tell them the “true facts,” Folchi said.
He added that a thousand Republicans from Texas are rumored to be on their way to northern Florida to bolster the GOP’s volunteer ranks.
“In the past four hours, I’ve probably given away 50 (Romney) signs,” said Peg Thompson, a volunteer in GOP headquarters on U.S. 41 in Port Charlotte. “We’ve run out of bumper stickers. A lot of people come in here all fired up.”
Volunteers from the Charlotte County Democratic Party were working in a similar fashion under the direction of Organizing for America, the national Obama campaign group. The group staffs three Charlotte County offices. It previously campaigned in Florida as Obama for America in 2008.
“We really never left Florida,” said Lacey Rose, an OFA spokeswoman.
“There’s nothing clandestine,” said Jim Nolan, chairman of the Charlotte County Democratic Executive Committee. “It’s a lot of hard work. Some people are ringing doorbells, some are making phone calls. My focus is not on the Republicans. My job is to get out the vote and keep the organization together and going forward.”
Among the volunteers at the OFA’s Murdock office Friday were retirees Linda and Herb Levin of Punta Gorda. Since June, the couple has been working in “data entry” on the campaign while also sharing their home to house a couple of OFA staff field organizers.
“We’re heavy into the Obama campaign,” said Linda.
Nolan said he personally volunteers to knock on doors. On occasion, he encounters hostile residents, he acknowledges. But, that hasn’t deterred him.
“It’s fun because I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and the candidates, from the top down to our local (County Commission) candidate,” he said, referring to Democrat Valerie Guenther. “It gives me energy.”