There's been quite a bit of talk about turnout in this election, but of course no reporter has dug in and given the public some details about what exactly happened, i.e. why the South Dakota GOP performed so well and the vaunted Daschle turnout machine sputtered. On that front, note the long article today in The New York Times Magazine about the turnout war in Ohio and the efforts of Democrats and their Soros-funded 527s like Americans Coming Together (ACT). The reporter, Matt Bai, wrote a similar article before the election about the Republican turnout effort in Ohio. There are some similarities to South Dakota, including the GOP reliance on in-state volunteers in contrast to Daschle's importation of coasties. Excerpt:
Earlier in the year, I had spent weeks on the other side of the lines in Ohio, writing an article for the magazine about the Republican plan to vastly increase turnout using an all-volunteer network, modeled on a multilevel marketing scheme like Amway, that would focus on the new and growing exurban counties around Ohio's major cities. Democrats, traditionally the masters of field organizing, had dismissed the Republican effort as an exercise in self-delusion, insisting that volunteers could never build a turnout model to compete with professional organizers. In ACT and its partners, Democrats told me, they were building the most efficient turnout machine in political history. I returned to Ohio in the final days of the campaign to see the power of this grass-roots behemoth in action. I did -- and I came to understand its limitations as well.
Later, the reporter notes some of the reasons the Democrats didn't do as well as they thought they would in Ohio:
I was beginning to understand that the rules of the game were changing, confounding even the experts who seemed to have this business of voter turnout all figured out. For decades, Democratic operatives had been virtually unchallenged by Republicans when it came to mobilizing voters, and during that time, they had come to rely on a certain set of underlying assumptions, all of them based on experience in urban areas. One was that the volume of activity at a polling place was a reliable measure of turnout; long lines meant higher turnout, and no lines meant disaster. Another was that the strength of a get-out-the-vote program could be gauged by the number of people canvassing city streets, the people holding signs in the rain, vans carrying voters to the polls.
But Ohio, like much of the country, was undergoing a demographic shift of historic proportions, and Republicans were learning to exploit their advantage in rapidly expanding rural areas that organizers like Lindenfeld, for all their technological innovation, just didn't understand. In shiny new town-house communities, canvassing could be done quietly by neighbors; you didn't need vans and pagers. Polling places could accommodate all the voters in a precinct without ever giving the appearance of being overrun. In the old days, these towns and counties had been nothing but little pockets of voters, and Republicans hadn't bothered to expend the energy to organize them. But now the exurban populations had reached critical mass (Delaware County alone had grown by almost one-third since the 2000 election), and Republicans were building their own kind of quiet but ruthlessly efficient turnout machine.
Here comes the scariest part for Democrats:
From the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and especially after the disputed election of 2000, Democrats operated on the premise that they were superior in numbers, if only because their supporters lived in such concentrated urban communities. If they could mobilize every Democratic vote in America's industrial centers -- and in its populist heartland as well -- then they would win on math alone. Not anymore. Republicans now have their own concentrated vote, and it will probably continue to swell. Turnout operations like ACT can be remarkably successful at corralling the votes that exist, but turnout alone is no longer enough to win a national election for Democrats. The next Democrat who wins will be the one who changes enough minds.
It's quite an interesting read. You'd think the turnout battle in SD would prompt a reporter to dig into the story. You know, because it was the biggest Senate race in the country and tens of millions of dollars were spent. Finally, you might want to check out these thoughts of a Democratic GOTV person in South Dakota.