Thousands of Republican Party volunteers braved scorching temperatures to knock on doors and canvass voters on Saturday as the party staged its first “Super Saturday” blitz, hoping to energize supporters and rival Democrats’ volunteer mobilization.
Republican officials said volunteers were out in a dozen battleground states expected to see close contests in the Nov. 6 election between US President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Obama captured all 12 — Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa — when he won the White House in 2008, aided by armies of enthusiastic supporters who helped generate the highest voter turnout in 40 years.
Romney will need to swing a number of them back to the Republican column to defeat Obama this year. Drumming up voter enthusiasm could be key, especially given polls showing Democrats are more enthusiastic about the this year’s contest than Republicans.
“There’s nothing to substitute for face-to-face, eye-to-eye contact,” former Virginia governor George Allen told volunteers in Fairfax, in the Virginia suburbs of Washington.
Allen, also a former US senator, is in a tight race against another former Virginia governor — and close Obama ally — Tim Kaine, to win back his old Senate seat.
A CNN poll this week said 59 percent of registered voters nationwide who describe themselves as Democrats are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, up from 46 percent in March.
Fifty-one percent of registered voters who say they are Republicans are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, unchanged since the earlier poll.
A Pew poll released this week found 60 percent of Republicans find the presidential campaign dull, compared with 46 percent of Democrats, but Romney raised more funds than Obama in May and is likely to have been ahead of him last month when he pulled in more than US$100 million.
Obama’s campaign is mounting a massive volunteer organization again this year, after reactivating its 2008 network and creating a heavy presence in social media.
In Virginia, Democrats have been holding voter registration drives as often as several times a week and making telephone calls and knocking on doors in weekend events for months.
However, Republican officials said they are determined to catch up with an intense ground game of their own. The party and Romney’s campaign have opened 23 offices in the state in the hope of recapturing Virginia’s 13 electoral votes this year.
“No matter how much the president decides to stick into the state, we’re going to match them,” one party official said.
In Fairfax, about 120 Republicans came out in 41oC heat on Saturday to knock on voters’ doors. Dozens staffed a telephone bank.
Jane Pyrak, 51, a stay-at-home mother of three from Annandale, said she volunteered twice a week and expected to do even more as the election came closer.
A lifelong Republican, she said she became part of the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement because she opposed Obama’s economic stimulus and healthcare reform plans.
“This is the most active I’ve been in my life,” Pyrak said. “It’s very exciting.”
Republican officials said they did not have an estimate of how many people had participated in “Super Saturday” nationwide, but were sure it was in the thousands.