Vote now – or expect a call

Campaigns hit streets, phones to ferret out ballots not yet cast

Karen and Ed Belt work the phones at the GOP Victory office in Bodo Park. “Keep our eye on the ball. Make phone calls. Knock on doors,” Ryan Call, Colorado Republican chairman, told volunteers during a visit last week. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Karen and Ed Belt work the phones at the GOP Victory office in Bodo Park. “Keep our eye on the ball. Make phone calls. Knock on doors,” Ryan Call, Colorado Republican chairman, told volunteers during a visit last week.

If you’re registered to vote and haven’t mailed in your ballot yet, someone wants to talk to you.

Campaigns have shifted into “ballot chase” mode, a voter-by-voter effort to win the election for their candidates for everything from county commissioner up to the president.

Both major parties’ headquarters in Denver get fresh reports before dawn each day about who has turned in ballots and who still is waiting. Registered Republicans and Democrats can expect to be hounded by their parties until they vote.

And unaffiliated voters can expect their phone to ring more often than the head cheerleader’s the month before senior prom.

Politicos call this the “ground game.” It’s where campaigns put to use the databases of supporters they have built up over the last several months, making sure volunteers connect with every potential voter and, whenever possible, get their votes locked up early.

Campaigns expect three-quarters of Coloradans to vote before Election Day.

A winning ground game can boost its candidate’s share of the vote by 3 or 4 percentage points – enough to make the difference between victory and defeat in a close election, said Mike Stratton, the get-out-the-vote coordinator for Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District.

Activity will build to a frenzy the weekend before Election Day.

“The universe of people who haven’t voted, we’ll know, and we’ll be at those doors Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” Stratton said.

Stratton and Colorado Republican Chairman Ryan Call both visited campaign offices in the Four Corners on Wednesday, like generals inspecting the front lines on the eve of battle.

Call urged 13 retirement-age Republican volunteers to put in as much time as they could the next three weeks.

“Keep our eye on the ball. Make phone calls. Knock on doors,” he said during a visit to Durango’s GOP Victory office, one of several state Republican campaign offices on the Western Slope.

Republican volunteers did not watch the presidential debate Tuesday because they were making phone calls for Mitt Romney, said Velbeth Jones, the party’s La Plata County chairwoman. They did another shift of phone calls and door-knocking Thursday.

A generation gap or two separates the Republican and Democratic offices.

Young people buzz around in perpetual motion at the Obama for America office at Third Avenue and College Drive in Durango. Time can’t be wasted with a little more than 400 hours until the polls close.

A sign on the refrigerator urges volunteers to make more calls faster: “Some is not a number. Soon is not a time,” it reads.

It’s all aimed at getting more volunteers in touch with more voters.

“There’s no more important person in a campaign than a volunteer,” said Stratton, a Durango native who managed presidential campaigns for Gary Hart and Bill Richardson.

“It’s emotion and passion that brings volunteers in. It’s emotion and passion that gets people instead of knocking on one precinct of doors, two precincts of doors,” Stratton said.

He thinks Democrats are well positioned for the election.

“I’ve been in 20 headquarters the last three days, and the kind of activity you’re seeing here is going on all over,” he said.

Obama has more than 50 campaign offices in Colorado, while Romney has 14. But Romney also relies on state party-funded Victory offices.

Call said Republicans won’t be beat at the ground game.

“Democrats like to brag about the number of offices, but I think the proof will come on Election Day when we’ve motivated our base and persuaded unaffiliated voters to come over to our side,” he said.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

Volunteers at the GOP Victory office in Bodo Park are working the phones to get out the vote. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Volunteers at the GOP Victory office in Bodo Park are working the phones to get out the vote.

Dave Maser works the list of calls to be made to voters from the Durango GOP Victory office. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Dave Maser works the list of calls to be made to voters from the Durango GOP Victory office.

Velbeth Jones, La Plata County Republican party chairwoman, explains call sheets to Karen and Ed Belt, and Virgil Pulliam, left, at the GOP Victory office in Bodo Park. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Velbeth Jones, La Plata County Republican party chairwoman, explains call sheets to Karen and Ed Belt, and Virgil Pulliam, left, at the GOP Victory office in Bodo Park.

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