Snyder, Schauer ready for stretch run
Gov. Rick Snyder and Mark Schauer will be barnstorming the state this weekend in a final appeal to voters as the Michigan Republican and Democratic parties deploy their tech-savvy campaign machinery aimed at gaining an advantage Tuesday at the ballot box.
Statewide polls conducted in the past week give Snyder a slight advantage, but suggest the Republican incumbent's bid for a second four-year term could come down to the wire on election night against his Democratic challenger.
The two men and their allies are trying to reach voters in person, on the phone and through the last barrage of a TV and radio ad push that was expected to top $14 million in the final two weeks of the campaign.
"This now all comes down to one very simple thing — turnout," said Richard Czuba, pollster for The Detroit News. "All the polling in the world won't tell you exactly who's turning out."
On Thursday, Schauer launched a 19-city tour taking him from walking with Angels' Night anti-arson volunteers in Detroit Thursday night and traveling overnight to the Upper Peninsula to greet paper mill workers in Escanaba as they change shifts before 6 a.m. Friday. On Saturday night, Schauer will get a boost from President Barack Obama during a rally at Wayne State University expected to attract 5,000 Democratic loyalists.
Snyder and other statewide Republican candidates are kicking off a three-day 16-city bus tour Saturday that will include a Monday campaign event with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the GOP office in Utica.
Democrats are banking this time on getting far more than the 3.2 million votes cast in the 2010 election to get Schauer elected governor and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters promoted to the U.S. Senate.
Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson has staked his ground game strategy on motivating many of the 995,000 voters who have voted in recent presidential elections but stayed home four years ago — when Republicans ran the table on Democrats and took over control of all areas of state government. The 43 percent participation of registered voters in 2010 was the lowest for a midterm election in 20 years.
Democrats are contacting voters who stayed home four years ago "on every front" through home visits, phone calls, targeted Facebook advertising — a campaign being waged from 43 field offices across the state, he said. They're even using technology that reaches voters at their specific Internet Protocol address that directs targeted advertising to that voter's computer, Johnson said.
Mindful of the Democrats' recent success in presidential elections, the Michigan Republican Party has created what Chairman Bobby Schostak calls the "gold standard" for field operations with 22 offices — including one in the Democratic stronghold of Detroit.
As of this week, Republicans had made contact with 3.5 million voters through phone calls, door knocking or social media outreach to urge them to support Gov. Rick Snyder and Terri Lynn Land for Senate, said Darren Littell, spokesman for the state Republican Party.
"We've got more going on in that ground game than Michigan has ever seen out of Republicans and frankly is well in excess of what Democrats are doing," Schostak said in an interview. "If ground games matter, which every professional in the business will tell it does, we're going to be in pretty good shape."
The Democrats are just as confident in their efforts, since they pioneered many of them.
"It's a brave new world," said Johnson, who is working from a playbook that his wife, Julianna Smoots, helped execute as President Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager in 2012. "The get-out-the-vote game has changed just so dramatically. Data has allowed us to understand precisely who we need to approach, message and turn out."
In February, the Michigan GOP launched a dashboard tool similar to one Obama used in 2012 by letting volunteers do phone bank calls from their homes and upload responses without having to drive to a field office.
The GOP dashboard preloads neighbors' phone numbers and addresses, and volunteers can import their own contacts from Facebook. It has decentralized field office operations, Littell said.
"Instead of being door-to-door, cold call salesmen, we're allowing them to stay in the neighborhoods, talking to the people they know best," he said.
This weekend, canvassers from both parties will continue a weeks-long effort to get voters to return absentee ballots through the mail or in person.
As of Thursday, more than 35 percent of the nearly 820,000 requested absentee ballots had not yet been returned to local clerks, according to RevSix Data Systems, a Pontiac-based company that tracks absentee ballots for candidates.
Other groups reach out
Get-out-the-vote strategies aren't limited to the two major political parties.
Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO union group, has sent teams canvassing door-to-door in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties since mid-July and plans to make personal contact with more than 80,000 registered voters by election night, said Roland Leggett, the organization's state director.
"We want to have 80,000 conversations and we're well on our way to meeting that goal," Leggett said. "We're helping people make the connection between issues they care about and the candidates most likely to meet their wishes."
Some efforts to motivate voters are tailored to narrow issues.
The Michigan League of Conservation Voters is spending $1 million on a get-out-the-vote effort that targets 100,000 environmentally minded voters in southwest Detroit, Monroe, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Muskegon.
Each city has been affected by pollution or an environmental calamity, from petroleum refining in southwest Detroit to toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie, severe flooding in downtown Grand Rapids last year and the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.
"We are connecting with the voters in a very personal manner in each one of these communities," said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the League of Conservation Voters of Michigan.
Through its political action committee, Conservation Voters of Michigan, the group has set up field offices in the six cities to coordinate 75 canvassers distributing door-hanging literature advocating for the election of Schauer and Peters and making contact with voters.
The Michigan LCV's efforts are separate from a $2.1 million voter education campaign the national League of Conservation Voters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union are waging to help Peters get elected.
The effort has included mailing personalized cards to voters who didn't vote in 2010 that showed names and addresses of their neighbors who did cast ballots four years ago and comparing it to their own voting record.
Wozniak said her organization's "unprecedented" efforts to "scientifically target" voters concerned about climate change and local environmental issues will prove to be "a compelling motivator to get to the polls."
Staff Writer Gary Heinlein contributed.
How voters can get an absentee ballot
Registered voters can apply for an absentee ballot through their local city or township clerk if they are:
■Age 60 years old or older.
■Unable to vote without assistance at the polls.
■Expect to be out of town on Nov. 4.
■Are in jail awaiting arraignment or trial.
■Unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to religious reasons.
■Working as an election inspector outside of their precinct of residence.
Voters can search for their local clerk's contact information online at www.Michigan.gov/vote.
■ Requests for getting an absentee voter ballot mailed to you must be received by a voter's clerk no later than 2 p.m. Saturday.
■ Under state law, township and city election clerks must keep their offices open until 2 p.m. Saturday to allow for absentee voting. Local clerks also will be open Monday for returning absentee ballots in person during regular business hours.
■ Ballots must be returned to the local clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Election Day voting
■ On Election Day, voters will be asked to show a photo identification card at the polls. If they do not have a photo ID, they can still vote, but must sign an affidavit attesting that they're not in possession of their ID.
■ Registered voters can download sample ballots and look up their voting precinct on the Secretary of State's elections website.
Source: Michigan Secretary of State