Saturday, November 29
2004 Is Now for Bush's Campaign
Early Advantage in Funds, Voters Sought
Dan Balz and Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff Writers, November 30, 2003
President Bush's reelection team, anticipating another close election, has begun to assemble one of the largest grass-roots organizations of any modern presidential campaign, using enormous financial resources and lack of primary opposition to seize an early advantage over the Democrats in the battle to mobilize voters in 2004.
Bush's campaign Web site already has signed up 6 million supporters, 10 times the number that Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has, and the Bush operation is in the middle of an unprecedented drive to register 3 million new Republican voters. The campaign has set county vote targets in some states and has begun training thousands of volunteers who will recruit an army of door-to-door canvassers for the final days of the election next November.
The entire project, which includes complementary efforts by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties, is designed to tip the balance in a dozen-and-a-half states that both sides believe will determine the winner in 2004.
"I've never seen grass roots like this," said a veteran GOP operative in one of the battleground states.
Dean, a former governor of Vermont, has made major strides in organizing a grass roots-based campaign in a bid for his party's nomination. His advisers say it is the largest in the history of presidential politics.
While saying he is not familiar with all the details of Dean's grass-roots and Internet efforts, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said, "Our goal is for the largest grass-roots effort ever."
Organization alone cannot elect Bush to a second term. Given the reality that the president's campaign team cannot control such potentially decisive factors as the economy or events in Iraq, officials are determined to maximize their advantage in areas they can control. Rarely has a reelection committee begun organizing so early or intensively -- or with the kind of determination to hold state party and campaign officials, and their volunteers, accountable for meeting the goals of the Bush team.