Publicly, he’s acting like he already won. But behind the scenes, Obama’s campaign is amassing lawyers and gearing up to counter dirty tactics on election day.
By Paul Alexander
This week, Barack Obama has shown clear signs that he is confident he is going to win. But privately, top Obama leadership are still worried that Republicans might be able to pull off another improbable election night victory.
Last week, in closed-to-the-press meetings, Obama officials briefed major donors about their concerns heading into the election’s final stretch. One of those meetings took place in Austin, Texas—a city in the solid red state of Texas that has raised a surprisingly large amount of money for Obama, mostly from the city’s high-tech community.
“The Obama campaign has learned the lessons of 2000 and 2004. On Election Day, lawyers will be everywhere—all the way down to the county level.”
In Texas and other states, Obama officials are preparing for the possibility that polls may be wildly off because of the so-called Bradley effect.
“The Obama officials are very cautious,” says an attendee at the Austin meeting. “They want comfortable margins in place just in case. They are looking at three to six percentage points as a possible Bradley effect. Before they consider a state comfortable, they want it outside the polling margins. They think the Bradley effect could be as large as six—maybe even seven—percentage points, but they don’t really know.”
Another major concern of the campaign is what they consider to be voter suppression. “The Obama leadership believes there is a systematic campaign,” says the attendee, “by the White House and the Justice Department to suppress voter turnout across the country.”
To counteract the Bradley effect and potential voter suppression, the Obama leadership has amassed one of the largest legal teams ever assembled by a presidential campaign. The main goal of the legal team, almost all of them volunteers, is to guarantee ballot security. “The Obama campaign has learned the lessons of 2000 and 2004,” my source says. “On Election Day, lawyers will be everywhere—all the way down to the county level.
Obama officials point to the government’s treatment of ACORN, the nationwide association of community organizations, as an example of possible voter suppression. The campaign has never relied on ACORN for its voter registration drives, according to Obama officials, and is viewed as only one of many venders hired by the campaign. Of the $605 million raised by the Obama campaign so far, only $800,000 has gone to ACORN—a number that could be much larger, and would have been had the campaign relied on it more heavily.
But perhaps the most important asset the Obama campaign has is an army of workers estimated to be as large as 100,000 nationwide. Some paid staffers, mostly volunteers, the workers are being spread out across the country to states the Obama campaign is targeting. For example, 5,000 workers based in Texas—a state Obama doesn’t expect to win—are being relocated to New Mexico, a state Obama believe he can win.
Obama workers will be flooding into other battleground states in the waning days of the presidential race, among them Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio—perhaps even Georgia and Montana. What is impressive about this sizable operation is its very organization. By Election Day, campaign officials believe, they may have the most extensive grass-roots organization of any presidential campaign in history.