TALLAHASSEE — A frenzy of phone calls, social media posts and house-to-house door-knocking is consuming the presidential race’s final days, as the data-rich campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney lock into a desperate fight to push voters to the polls in swing state Florida.

The National Rifle Association, tea party groups and social conservatives are leading efforts for Romney, while labor unions and the NAACP are those aiding Obama in the homestretch.

Both camps also are dispatching allies this week to woo Hispanics, women and students.

The ground war to mobilize voters is escalating by the hour as each side acknowledges the effort may prove decisive in settling the drum-tight presidential contest in the nation’s biggest battleground state.

A Quinnipiac University poll Wednesday showed Obama leading 48-47 percent over Romney, an edge within the survey’s margin of error. Pollsters said the race in Florida is too close to call.

“We are trying to touch voters at least seven times,” said Gary Marx, national executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which has 160 volunteers scattered across Florida urging social conservatives to the polls.

“That might mean, three pieces of mail, three phone calls and a visit from a volunteer,” Marx said. “It’s now all about marketing. You use the same tactic whether it’s introducing a McRib sandwich or getting voters to think about voting for Mitt Romney.”

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, started by former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, has launched a get-out-the-evangelical vote effort across 15 key states including Florida, aimed at increasing turnout for Romney.

Romney had a three-city fly-around Wednesday in Florida, his second such tour in five days.

The Obama campaign this week held early voting events targeting women, college students and minorities.

Obama skipped a Monday rally at the University of Central Florida as Hurricane Sandy raged in the Northeast, but former President Bill Clinton campaigned in his place.

Michelle Obama is scheduled today to visit three cities in Florida, including a Jacksonville appearance with Stevie Wonder. Jesse Jackson stumped in Daytona Beach on Wednesday.

Democratic-allied organizations are targeting black and younger voters by reminding them about Florida’s new election laws that reduced early voting from 14 days to eight and made it tougher for voters, such as college students, who move from one county to another, to cast ballots.

Florida New Majority, a Democratic-leaning group, is pinpointing what it calls “low-propensity” voters, who only occasionally participate in elections.

Since June, executive director Gihan Perera said, his volunteers have been trying to make at least three in-person contacts with black, Hispanic and lower-income voters identified as less-likely to cast ballots.

Pledges have been collected from 44,000 of those people contacted.

“We think that if we move that 44,000 people who are not counted by anybody and get them to the polls, that can make the big difference in this election, as tight as it is,” Perera said.

Jose Mallea, southeast regional director for the Libre Initiative, a Hispanic advocacy organization, has been sending volunteers to Orlando and Jacksonville, promoting business entrepreneurship that mirrors themes of the Romney campaign.

“We don’t promote one candidate,” Mallea said. “But if a voter asks, we will show how the candidates’ positions are different.”

Paul Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, said his nonprofit organization has contacted 140,000 college-age and young professionals in Florida as part of its get-out-the-vote effort.

Generation Opportunity isn’t supporting either presidential candidate, Conway said. But it has found young voters are concerned about the lack of job opportunities, increased federal spending and the national debt.

“We are trying to get these millennial to take a pledge to go vote,” Conway said.

The nonpartisan National Coalition of Black Civil Participation is targeting black voters under 35, who make up 40 percent of black voters, and women.

“If the young people don’t vote and black women don’t vote, that’s a bad year for the black vote,” said NCBCP President Melanie Campbell. “So for us, it’s very, very targeted in terms of turnout.”

The science of the campaign ground game has improved in recent years as both Democrats and Republicans embrace hard lessons learned in the 2000 presidential race in Florida, when George W. Bush won the White House by 537 votes.

Four years later, Bush easily defeated Democrat John Kerry in Florida after presidential adviser Karl Rove developed a strategy of driving turnout in the state’s rural and newly developed suburban counties.

A 456,000-vote increase in these regions fueled Bush’s winning margin. In just five counties – Brevard, Polk, Lake, Hillsborough and Pasco – Bush gained 99,000 votes over his 2000 performance, Democratic analysts concluded.

“We’ve taken the 2004 Bush model, put in 2012 technology, and have created a turnout effort on steroids,” said Brett Doster, a Romney campaign senior strategist in Florida.

Doster said the Romney supporters have made 10.5 million voter contacts in Florida, recently at a pace of as many as 1.5 million per-week.

In response to Obama’s strong 2008 turnout, which helped him carry the state, Romney is putting more attention into non-traditional GOP voting pockets, Doster said.

“We’re looking at non-Cuban Hispanics, rural registered Democrats in the Panhandle, and Jewish voters in Southeast Florida,” Doster said. “If we can get those voters, it’s a two-fer. We gain one, and the Obama campaign loses one.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, scoffed at such tactics while meeting early voters Wednesday in Delray Beach with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, an ex-Republican now campaigning for Obama.

But when asked about “Obama Oy Vey,” and other anti-Obama, Jewish-voter-targeted billboards in Palm Beach County, Deutch was dismissive. “They’re wasting their money,” he said.

Through Tuesday, the state’s Division of Elections reported that more than 2.6 million Floridians had cast ballots by mail or in-person. Registered Democrats accounted for 43 percent of the vote; Republicans 40 percent and non-party registrants another 17 percent.

Republicans lead in absentee ballots cast. But Democrats dominate in early voting – a trend the Obama campaign said will continue and is expected to be supplemented by the arrival of those sporadic voters it targeted.

“We think this race is a dead heat down here with likely voters,” said Obama senior adviser David Plouffe. “There’s a whole bunch of people that aren’t saying they’re not going to vote, they’re just not sure.

“We’ve got to find them and we’ve got to convince them to vote,” Plouffe said.

This article was published in the Palm Beach Post. View full article here »

Category: FNM in the News

South Florida Democratic candidates who had no reason to expect victory are preparing to be sworn in to office now thanks to the votes of people whom the pollsters largely ignored: unlikely voters.

One election post-mortem from the liberal nonprofit America Votes suggests unlikely voters cast 34 percent of the early and mail-in absentee votes during this election, propelling liberal Democrats such as Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami and State Senator Maria Sachs of Boca Raton unexpectedly to the winners' circle.

Novice candidate Rodriguez won 53.7 percent of the vote to beat formidable political family member Alex Diaz de la Portilla to the District 112 state house seat. Sachs defeated tough Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff with 52.8 percent in a redrawn district that created the Senate's only incumbent-on-incumbent match-up.

An unlikely voter, says America Votes Florida director Josh Geise, is one who scores below 80 on a zero-to-100 scale of voting history, age, ethnicity, neighborhood and other factors that measure the propensity for voting. The likely voter model in use by several polling organizations uses only three elements: voting history, the voter's self-described intention to vote and his or her enthusiasm for the campaign.

The task for Democratic ground-gamers was to goad the unlikelys out of their torpor and campaigners say Republican legislators and Gov. Rick Scott made that easy with the voting law they passed in 2011.

"The (voter roll) purges, the crackdown on early voting -- all those things that were an attempt to make those voters even less likely to vote -- those things really ticked people off," says Gihan Perera, who runs the political nonprofit Florida New Majority. FNM staff and volunteers made calls and knocked on doors for Rodriguez, Sachs and other Democrats around the state.

"People don't like to be erased. Even if it was something they weren't going to do, they don't want the right to do it taken away," Perera said.

FNM also contributed manpower and data to winning Democratic Senate candidates Dwight Bullard of Miami and Darren Soto of Orlando.

America Votes was unable to say whether the turnout of unlikely voters was unusual. Geise said there isn't enough data from previous elections to run the statistical model it uses to separate likelys from unlikelys.

Prominent among the cohort of the unlikely were Latin voters under 50, who were particular targets of FNM's campaign. In Rodriguez's District 112, which comprises parts of Little Havana, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne, they had wearied of traditional Miami politics and dropped out, according to Perera. He thinks getting them re-engaged made Rodriguez' win one of the most important victories of the campaign.

Rodriguez is headed for Tallahassee as a junior member of the out-of-power party. But he thinks all of those votes from the formerly jaded, apathetic and unlikely will make a difference in the capital.

"I think the character of the Legislature is not going to resemble the last two years," Rodriguez said. "I think there's going to be a lot of pushback on the governor than in the last two years."

Originally published on WLRN.org. View full article here.

Category: FNM in the News

Tallahassee, Florida - November 20, 2012

A group of voters who experienced long lines and other avoidable difficulties in voting during the November election will gather in the fourth floor rotunda of the Florida State Capitol building Tuesday morning, as legislators arrive to be sworn in and attend organizational meetings.

About a dozen voters, identified by Florida New Majority, Florida Immigrant Coalition and other partners urging reforms to voting in Florida, will stand in the gallery with placards indicating how long they waited in line to vote. The mute appeal underscores the value of the vote as the only voice most people have in the democratic process.

"We just want the legislators to recognize that we are upset about the disaster we all experienced," said Angie Nixon, a community organizer with Florida New Majority. "We're asking them not to forget about the voters when they are passing laws. They need to fix this."


Category: Press Releases

That was my feeling after walking the streets of Broward with Sharena and Flavia, two of Florida New Majority’s canvassers who are mobilizing voters for tomorrow’s election.

Almost every day during the last month, Sharena and Flavia, as well as 10 other canvassers, laced up their walking shoes and knocked on doors of African-Americans, Haitians and Latinos. Saying what? Vote! But not jut for the sake of voting, or for a specific candidate. This time, they are asking voters to vote for workers rights and immigrant rights.

FNM is advocating for unemployment compensation reform in order to protect those workers who lost their job in this difficult times. Also, we are trying to stop anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB1070 from coming to our state. But we know that to make real changes we need to organize voters to not only vote but take action after election day.

Sharena and Flavia’s best line when they are at the doors encouraging people to vote. “The majority of the folks that I talk to are either unemployed, immigrant or come from an immigrant family”, says Flavia. “So, when they try to close the door, I have a good argument to get their attention for a minute. At the end, many even get into good conversations with me and they like that we talk about voting for their rights”.

It’s like an invitation to vote for themselves, for their families, their neighbors, for you and for me, for all of us. “The response has been very good, probably because we are new in this area, or because people are more receptive than we thought” says Sharena. “Sometimes even the neighbors tell us: ‘why don’t you come to my door?!’”

So far, the effort is paying off. The team has talked face-to-face with close to 1,000 potential voters and 78% have said yes, they will vote or participate!!! That doesn’t sound like the Broward many think it is… a county where people only go to sleep, or where many voted for Obama but don’t want to vote again. Not at all.

That day with Sharena and Flavia, I saw many Broward residents saying they already voted or they were going to. We even stopped at the house of a nurse who actually got in the car after we left to go vote early. And the most amazing thing is that our canvassers get to see this every day. Out of 10 doors they knock, at least 1 encourages them to continue under the sun, avoiding unfriendly dogs, walking the streets of Broward.

Enthusiasm gap in Broward? We are making sure that’s not the case. See you at the polls!

Category: Canvassing