In campaign's final days, voter turnout is the focus


At this point in the campaign, the candidates and their surrogates are concentrating all of their efforts on one thing -- getting their supporters to the polls on Election Day.

From Saturday through Tuesday, campaign volunteers are calling their supporters, knocking on doors and dropping off campaign literature with the hope of squeezing out a few more votes.

Al Franken campaigning
DFL Senate candidate Al Franken speaks at the Operators and Engineers Local 49 Building in Minneapolis today.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

On Saturday morning, Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline greeted a crowd of about 100 people outside a restaurant in Rosemount. The group turned out to hear Kline and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman speak.

Kline gave a bit of a pep talk to the loyal supporters who are working to get him and Coleman re-elected.

"Across the country, races are tightening," said Kline. "It's going to come down to you, you here, and people like you across the country who are going to the polls, and you're grabbing your neighbors and grabbing your friends and making sure that they get to the polls to vote."

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But neither party is relying on pep rallies to turn out the vote. They also have massive voter databases that detail strong supporters, undecided voters and people who will vote for their opponents.

At Republican presidential candidate John McCain's Minnesota campaign headquarters, volunteers are calling supporters and reminding them to vote.

Ben Golnick, midwest political director for McCain
Ben Golnick, midwest political director for John McCain, works the phones during the final days of the campaign.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

Ben Golnik, McCain's Minnesota campaign manager, said the campaign is contacting voters across the state, but is really focusing its get out the vote efforts in the Twin Cities area and Rochester. He also said McCain is receiving heavy support among voters in northeastern Minnesota.

Golnik said the voter targeting will help deliver on Election Day.

"The Republican turnout machine was very successful in 2004, and put George Bush back in the White House for a second term," said Golnik. "That machine is more sophisticated, is more battle-tested, and frankly, is just better than what the Democrats have. The Democrats are trying to play catchup but the Republican methodology is just vastly superior to what the Democrats have."

"Our effort is twice the size of the Kerry/Edwards campaign in 2004," countered Jeff Blodgett, who heads Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's Minnesota campaign.

Blodgett said the DFL's coordinated campaign aims to remind its 600,000 core Democratic supporters to vote on Election Day. In addition, he said they aim to contact the half a million new or sporadic voters that they have registered.

Jeff Blodget
Jeff Blodgett, who heads Barack Obama's Minnesota campaign, speaks to reporters from "packetland." That's where volunteers spent the last week stuffing packets with campaign literature, which will be delivered to voters' doors right before the election.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Blodgett said it's the biggest get out the vote operation in the state's history.

"Our job, especially in those last four days, is to make sure that our voters, especially those who don't always vote in elections and new voters -- and there's lots of new voters as well -- we need to make sure that they get out and vote on Election Day," said Blodgett.

Blodgett talked to reporters last week as dozens of volunteers prepared campaign literature for the final weekend push.

The DFL Party is working hard to make sure that its core voters turn out for two hard fought congressional races in the 6th and 3rd Districts. And there's also Minnesota's Senate race, which shows Republican Norm Coleman and DFLer Al Franken running neck and neck.

Democrats have been also holding rallies for their candidates across the state. Some are at large venues. Others are a bit smaller, like a Sunday morning event at the Operating Engineers building in Minneapolis.

Franken told a group of about 50 people he appreciated their efforts, and urged them to find as many supporters as possible.

"This Senate race is going to be close. And I don't want to wake up on Nov. 5 thinking there was one last thing I could have done," said Franken. "I don't want you thinking that way either, so I need your help. I need you over the next 58 hours."

Franken, Coleman and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley are also hoping that direct voter interaction will help deliver votes. All three will campaign across the state in the remaining hours before the polls open tomorrow.