Though a changed Ohio elections law allowed, for the first time ever this week, the opportunity for citizens to both register and vote in one fell swoop, a top Obama operative in the state says the campaign didn't spend much energy trying to take advantage of the unique situation.
"Our focus was to get as many people registered as possible. We have four weeks after to get people to the polls up to election day," said Ohio campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds. "There's an end line when it comes to registration, so that's where our real focus was."
And in the last week of voter registration, which ended on Monday, the Obama official said he saw some "incredible" signs of support. Noting that the most recent numbers from the Ohio secretary of state show 650,000 new voters, Reynolds said "that's low, because the deadline was for postmarks. In the backlog process, we think there are tens of thousands of others outstanding."
On Monday, the last day for registering voters in Ohio, Reynolds said nearly 13,000 people registered, approximately 8,000 of whom were African American. As has been reported, the campaign relied on its "Barbershop & Beauty Salon" campaign in African American neighborhoods to register voters. Reynolds said individual locations were chosen "from the bottom up," based on supporter recommendations.
"We had these outposts in trusted meeting places. And I think it's indicative of how our whole campaign comes from the bottom up," Reynolds said. "They are community meeting places where people come to get together to share information. It's natural for us to try and tap into that community network. They've been a great resource for us."
Now that the registration deadline has passed, Reynolds said the B&B program will be converted into a get out the vote operation.
For now, the campaign's broader GOTV presence will focus on turning out hardcore supporters in the early voting period. Reynolds said turning out "strong commits" now will allow the campaign's data system to take advantage of what he described as a "pressure valve release," since once a supporter has voted, his or her name is taken off the massive voterfile list maintained by the campaign. "It saves us bandwidth," Reynolds said, adding that the strategy will allow the campaign to focus on "persuadable" voters and turning out committed supporters during the last days of the race.
To target those undecided voters, the campaign is working closely with the state party. And unlike in 2004, when outside groups like America Coming Together duplicated a lot of the canvassing work being performed by party professionals and volunteers, Reynolds said this year is different. "Everything is coordinated, throughout the campaign," including offices, the spokesman said, noting that the Obama cubicles are in the basement of the state party's building.
The campaign's Neighbor To Neighbor program is also coordinated with the state party, and Reynolds said over 7,200 volunteers knocked doors in Ohio during the last week of registration. "That's just something you cannot do at a paid staff level," he said. "And it's the basis of our effort in Ohio."
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