Maybe it is a lingering reaction to the surprise loss of Mitt Romney in 2012. Maybe it is a suppressed memory of the Democratic near-sweep of contested Senate seats in 2008. Maybe it is fear of Charlie Brown-like disappoint after six years of Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Despite all of the good signs, there is still plenty of reason to be nervous - and not just because political campaigns want to keep their supporters on edge to boost last-minute fundraising and turnout.
At this point we are past the risk of embarrasing Republican candidates winning in remote primaries or making "legitimate rape" gaffes; past the debates where ignorance or a brain freeze could doom an otherwise good candidate; past the fundraising season where George Soros, Tom Steyer, or the SEIU could tilt the scales if the Republican donors were absent; past the point where NBC or CBS "investigative reports" can make much of a difference. The voting has begun in 30 states, pundits are parsing the party affiliation of early voters to glean trends - something like Greek soothsayers analyzing goats entrails. Game on!
What is left is Get Out The Vote. Some snippets:
- While most of the big money goes into media, successful campaign managers recruit, motivate, and manage the mix of volunteers and paid help to operate phone banks and walk precincts. Computer tools are broadly available to identify high propensity voters and likely supporters of Candidate A or Candidate B based on party affiliation from the voter files, and housing and demographic details from the 2010 census. Precinct walks target specific homes with specific messages, and are optimized to minimize wasted steps. Early voting results are fed back to the infantry to hone their targets. This is not new, except that e-mails now complement snail mail advertisements, door knocks and door knob hangers. There is no inherent partisan advantage - the tools are agnostic; there are plenty of technicians for hire.
- There was a huge divide in 2012 in the skill in using "big data" and social media. The Obama campaign had left a state structure in place from 2008, deepening connections in key communities, learning mastery of social media, and preparing for the final weeks of the campaign with availability of subject matter experts, people able to answer inquiries on how to register and the location of polling places, and lawyers able to defend and attack. The Romney campaign was staffed by people who showed up after he won the nomination; their heralded information system, ORCA, collapsed on the eve of the election. Republicans have been working to catch up for two years with former Facebook whiz Andy Barkett in the lead. A national list of likely Republican voters is available; there is evidence of much better performance in some important off-cycle elections (San Diego mayor; a Florida Congressional race). A post mortem of this year's Senate races will show how much of this gap remains.
- The "voter integrity"/ "voter suppression" battle plays out with the Supreme Court delaying implementation of a voter ID law in Wisconsin (which would have become the 33d state with some form of ID requirement) and allowing Texas to use its new strict voter ID law while it remains under challenge. Democrats probably benefit in two ways:
-- Democrats, particularly in North Carolina and Georgia, are depending on getting out a large African American vote. Despite their declining financial fortunes under the first African-American president and their hero's threat to give amnesty to a large number of Hispanics who contend for low end jobs, the "voter suppression" mantra will motivate turnout - at least that is Debbie Wasserman-Schultz hope when she equates voter ID requirements to Jim Crow.
-- Mail-in ballots - the antithesis of verification and privacy - will become the sole means of voting in Colorado, joining Oregon and Washington. Expect voting parties at the nursing homes and union halls.
-- James O'Keefe, whose expose blew up Acorn in 2009, has started Project Veritas to document a willingness to encourage fraud on the part of Democrats in Colorado and North Carolina . The claim that voter fraud is non-existent still goes largely unchallenged outside of Breitbart.
Enough of the wet balanket! The Washington Post gives the Republicans a 95% chance of winning the Senate. Let's go with that.
This week's video is an early reflection of the fact that Hillary Clinton is determined to not be outflanked on the anti-business Left as she maneuvers for the Democratic presidential nomination. There can be no backpedalling; this was not an unintended slip; it is not taken out of context as the NY Times would claim.