McCormick Place in Chicago is outfitted for President Obama’s planned speech tomorrow night, after the results of the election are known. Photo by George Zornick.
Chicago—As President Obama barnstorms the country with high-wattage celebrities, designed to maximize news coverage of rallies where he delivers his closing argument for re-election, campaign staffers in Chicago are projecting serious confidence about the final results. The convention center at McCormick Place is a flurry of activity as it is outfitted for a speech from Obama tomorrow night, and early voting tallies have campaign officials sure that it will be a victory address, and not a concession speech.
“The math is clear. Our opponent is losing among early voters in nearly every public poll in every battleground state,” OFA national field director Jeremy Bird told reporters late Monday afternoon. “We’re confident a big showing on one day can’t match the votes we’ve already banked over the last month.”
In North Carolina, for example, Romney must win 65 percent of the voters tomorrow in order to carry the state. In Iowa and Colorado, he needs 59 percent of the voters tomorrow; 58 percent in Nevada, 55 percent in Florida and Ohio, and 52 percent in Virginia and Wisconsin.
And it’s not just as simple as having gotten more Democrats to vote—OFA has specifically targeted sporadic voters for early voting. These are people the campaign believes would be less likely to show up to the polls on Election Day itself, so it uses the days, and in some cases weeks, of early voting to persuade them to turn out.
Bird said that in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Nevada, 1.4 million Democrats who didn’t vote in the midterm elections have already cast ballots this year—compared to 840,000 sporadic Republican voters.
This disparity is no doubt why Republican officials in swing states have tried to cut down on early voting—from Ohio, where Secretary of State Jon Husted tried to stop early voting altogether until the Supreme Court intervened, to Florida, where Governor Rick Scott is refusing to extend early voting hours after Floridians waited in lines as long as six hours to cast a ballot. This is something prior Republican governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist did, and Crist called Scott’s hard-line stance “indefensible” this weekend.
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters today that only 49 percent of Floridians have already voted, compared with 55 percent in 2008—which she blamed on a shorter early voting window.
Still, campaign officials remained upbeat about their ability to navigate the Republican early-voting speed bumps. “We’re doing everything we can to alleviate [the lines], and we have folks on the ground on the field side of things who have been out there with entertainment and making sure people are staying in line,” said Bird.
The campaign is also sending out massive legal teams to patrol swing states and ensure that there are no dirty tricks, like intimidation of minority voters or confusing instructions from Republican-trained poll volunteers. “We have a great legal team on the ground making sure that everybody’s following the law and there’s no shenanigans from the other side,” Bird said.
This weekend, the Obama campaign put out a blistering memo to reporters detailing all the voter suppression schemes being cooked up by the Republican Party this year, from Nathan Sproul’s work for the RNC to the efforts of True the Vote. The memo, written by OFA general counsel Robert Bauer, pulled no punches in characterizing these efforts as an explicit strategy. “The Romney for President campaign’s plans to mislead voters have to be viewed in this context: not as extraordinary, but instead a sadly predictable contribution to the Republican Party’s institutionalized policy and practice of vote suppression,” he wrote. “Attacking the right to vote has a long history within the Republican Party.”
Some campaign officials say it’s a fine line to walk when it comes to talking about voter suppression—they want voters to be on the lookout, but at the same time they try to maintain a consistently positive tone about efforts to combat it. They fear that giving the issue too much attention might discourage voters who come to believe the system is rigged.
This is the state of the campaign in these final hours: concerned only about projecting confidence and monitoring the voting process. There are no more new ads, nor new campaign themes. Most of the action is now out in the battleground states, and Chicago is relatively quiet—someone unaware would have no idea the campaign is based here, as the cold and gray city seems to just be going about its business.
But that will change tomorrow, when Obama and the first family arrive. Obama has already voted early, and unlike Mitt Romney, won’t be campaigning tomorrow. Bird said he’s sure the president “will try to get in a game of hoops at some point,” before watching the returns at his home in Hyde Park. But come tomorrow night—assuming we know the result—all eyes will be on Chicago when Obama takes the stage at McCormick Place.