BRISTOW, Va.—President Obama’s closing message to voters in the battleground state of Virginia: “It’s all up to you.”
After hundreds of millions of dollars in TV ads and months of open political warfare between the Obama camp and that of his Republican rival Mitt Romney, it’s now all about the ground game.
Rallying a crowd of some 24,000 supporters alongside former President Bill Clinton on Saturday night, Obama implored Virginians to knock on doors and help get voters to the polls on Tuesday.
“I’m just a prop in the campaign,” Obama said of the final hours before Election Day. “The power is not with us anymore … It’s all up to you. It’s up to the volunteers.”
Obama took to the stage Saturday night after Clinton—hoarse from a packed schedule of campaign appearances—made a lengthy case against Romney, touching on everything from the auto bailout to the budget. In a pitch aimed at undecideds, the former president painted the current one as a leader who can rise above “ideological conflict.”
“We saw it in how the president responded to Sandy,” said Clinton, noting that Obama worked with Republican Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) in New York.
“As you can see, I’ve given my voice in service of my president,” Clinton said at what was his third campaign rally of the day.
Meanwhile in Colorado, Romney garnered a crowd of some 17,000 supporters on Saturday, telling the crowd it will take just “one final push” to get the campaign over the finish line. It’s all part of a final three-day blitz that has Obama, Romney and their top surrogates are traversing a full slate of battleground states.
On Saturday, Obama held rallies in Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio before capping off his day with Clinton in Virginia. On Sunday, the president will be back in Ohio for another rally, along with stops in New Hampshire, Florida and Colorado. Clinton will travel with the president to New Hampshire—the former president also has a full slate of campaign events in Pennsylvania on Monday.
Both campaigns are now in all-out GOTV mode and fighting to convince observers that they have an edge when it comes to turnout. On a conference call with reporters Saturday afternoon, Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina boasted “a ground game unlike any American politics has ever seen.”
Messina says the campaign has some 5,100 GOTV staging locations, which he described as “hyper-local Obama hubs” that would continue to push voters to the polls. Jeremy Bird, the campaign’s national field director, says the Obama camp has made 125 million personal contacts with voters to date—either phone calls or door-knocks. It’s a number Bird says doesn’t include automated calls.
“Unlike campaigns of the past, our volunteers are not driving to some large office miles from their homes and handed a phone and a call sheet,” reads an Obama campaign memo released late Saturday afternoon that makes the case for a sizable Obama edge when it comes to early voting and GOTV. “Instead, Canvass Captains, Phone Bank Captains and scores of local volunteers will be knocking on the doors of the very voters they registered, have been talking to for months and know personally.”
As for the early vote totals, both the Obama and Romney campaigns seem to think they have an edge. The Romney camp argues that Obama is underperforming compared to 2008, and that the Democrats who have turned out to vote early are high propensity voters, setting Romney up to win Election Day voters by big margins in many battleground states on Tuesday.
The Obama campaign disputes that notion, arguing that Romney will have to win Election Day voters by next to impossible margins given the lead the Obama campaign says it has amassed in many states thanks to early voting.
While both campaigns are expressing confidence ahead of Tuesday, Messina said “we’re not going to take anything for granted anywhere.”
While Obama’s campaign chief thinks the operation OFA has spent years building will deliver on Tuesday, “we have learned from past campaigns that you don’t take anything for granted. You go as hard as you can until the end.”