Ground gaming the system

 

The latest Colorado poll, conducted by Rasmmussen on September 28, has Obama up by one point. But is the race as close as it seems? Maybe not.

There's been some recent speculation, of course, that the the polls are skewing Republican because pollsters can't get in contact with young voters who don't have landlines. But in Colorado this year, there's something else that's even harder for the pollsters to account for: the potential effect of the disparities in the two candidates' ground games. Canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts are what win close elections, and it's hard to do either without a whole lot of paid staffers and volunteers. While it's difficult to get numbers on just how many people the Obama and McCain campaigns have working for them in Colorado, the number of field offices that the campaigns have established just might be decent proxy. By that measure, Obama is winning hands-down. The Obama campaign website lists 33 offices in the state. McCain's lists only 9.

Perhaps more telling is the geographic distribution of offices. Obama has them in every part of the state besides the sparsely-populated, heavily-Republican eastern plains. Except for an office in Grand Junction (and one that just opened in Eagle county but isn't up on the website yet), the McCain campaign has limited itself to the Front Range.

There are a few other unofficial McCain offices set up by local Republican parties on the West Slope. But Sean Quinn of fivethirtyeight.com, who went on a field-organizing tour of the area about a week ago, reports finding many of them closed.  It all points to a pretty big disparity in on-the-ground resources, especially in the rural parts of the state. How much of a difference will this make? Since the polls won't really tell us, we're going to have to wait another 34 days to find out.

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