I was a "precinct captain" for Kerry before the Iowa caucuses, and at least during that period (late 2003), the Kerry campaign was VERY focused on organizing the neighborhoods, holding house parties, and getting "hard counts" of supporters for GOTV. We did a good job with that. I hosted three house parties myself in November and December, with zero fundraising on the agenda. Friends of mine in Ames contacted the Kerry campaign offering to hold a house party to raise money during this period, and his staff told them that Kerry did not want to focus on fundraising before the caucuses.
During the days when there seemed to be no way to stop Dean, John Norris (Kerry's Iowa campaign manager) told his field organizers not to panic, but keep lining up precinct captains and work on meeting the vote goals in individual precincts.
I don't doubt that the Kerry campaign failed to do enough with the house parties nationally after he won the nomination, but in June/July 2004 field organizers in central Iowa were contacting volunteers to urge them to hold house parties for Kerry ASAP.
ACT was also contacting people in precincts trying to get them to persuade eight friends in their own neighborhood to help with the campaign. I don't know the details of this because as a precinct captain for Kerry I had to be careful not to coordinate with people in the neighborhood who were primarily working with ACT or Moveon.
In September and October, we precinct captains got lists of unreliable Democrats in our neighborhoods, whom we urged to vote early (with great success). We also had lists of undecided voters, whom we were encouraged to contact. I know that certain precincts that had higher levels of undecideds than mine were targeted for door-knocking as well.
People now are grumbling about all the energy put into the absentee ballot effort in Iowa, but I think we don't have enough information yet to determine whether it was a good strategy. It was certainly very labor intensive for the volunteers, but we did get a huge number of people to vote early, which did shrink the universe of people we had to contact to GOTV those last few days.
In Iowa, as in many other states, Kerry exceeded the "vote goals" set by the campaign strategists. Iowa had pretty high turnout in 2000, leading to something like 1.3 million votes cast (total state population about 2.8 million). Our vote goal in Iowa was 700,000 this year, and Kerry exceeded that by tens of thousands. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough--total turnout was 1.5 million, much more than they expected.
I know Iowa turnout levels are unusually high, so this may not apply in all states, but I think the key in the future will be to persuade the regular voters who should be with us. We did a great job of turning out our base, even our irregular voters, but I knew too many people who oppsed the war and are moderate on social issues but voted for Bush anyway.
I don't know the right way to reach these people (some independents, some registered Rs), frankly, but we need more of them to counteract the large number of people who will never give any Democrat a fair hearing at all.
Vilsack has said a million times he will not run for a third term.
Likely Democratic candidates include Lt. Gov Sally Pedersen and State Representative Ed Fallon (neither has declared, however).
Likely Republican candidates include U.S. Rep Jim Nussle (Iowa's 1st CD) and possibly lawyer/lobbyist Doug Gross, who lost badly to Vilsack in 2002. If Nussle gets in it could clear the decks, otherwise some Republicans in the state legislature will likely run.
Vilsack was the first Democrat elected governor of Iowa for 30 years. I would say the 2006 race leans Republican, especially if Nussle is the nominee.
I don't understand this belief that we need to nominate some candidate who's not a "loser" like Gore or Kerry. Do you honestly think that Dean or Edwards or Clark would have stood a better chance this year? The Republican attack machine will destroy anyone we nominate for president, and the media will just pass along the lies with little comment.
If the mainstream media continue to play this game, there is not a single Democrat who could be a viable presidential candidate.
Even a moderate southern governor like Warner will be demonized, just like Clinton was.
We need a Perot-type person (someone who seems like a Republican but mostly criticizes Republicans) in the race in 2008 to draw some of the Republican-leaning moderates away from the GOP. Many of these people simply will not vote Democrat, no matter who we nominate. Perot is the main reason Clinton won in the first place (although having an economy in much worse shape than this year's certainly helped Clinton too).
I've long been a huge advocate of publicly-funded "clean elections," as are an option for candidates in Arizona and Maine.
However, after this election I feel the number one priority for election reform advocates should be switching states to a mail-in balloting system.
Oregon has been using this system for a few election cycles. I'm sure it has its problems, but it has many advantages.
If all registered voters receive a ballot in the mail four or six weeks before the election, then anyone wrongly purged from voter rolls would be aware of it, and would have time to act on it, well before election day. No surprises leading to provisional ballots.
No one would have to wait in line for 3, 4 or 7 hours to cast a ballot. It's clear that Republicans in Ohio and Florida did not put enough voting machines in heavily Democratic areas. No one should have to wait longer than a hour to vote. We will never know how many thousands of votes we lost because people had jobs to get to or kids to get home to.
If everyone were able to vote in the privacy of the home, bogus Republican "challengers" would not be able to intimidate voters and cause chaos in polling stations.
Mail-in ballots would leave a paper trail. Recounts would be straightforward (no hanging chads).
It's pretty easy to fill in a box next to your candidate's name. I'm sure some people might make a mistake, but generally the percentage of spoiled ballots is low when the voter just has to mark the box next to the candidate's name.
People would not have to worry about touchscreen machines recording the wrong vote.
If anyone from Oregon can tell me more about the pluses and minuses of this system, I'd be interested to hear about it.
I do not believe that Gore voters stayed home. Rather, the GOP turned out more people who did not vote in 2000 than we did. We believed that high turnout elections could only benefit Democrats, but it's not so.
Here in Iowa, Gore received about 650,000 votes in 2000 (winning the state narrowly). The Kerry campaign believed it could win this state with 700,000 votes, and in fact Kerry received more like 735,000 votes. But the Republicans turned out just that little bit more.
In Ohio, Kerry received hundreds of thousands more votes than Gore had in 2000, yet it wasn't enough.
It is also possible that some people cited by Angus P lied to pollsters about who they voted for in 2000. There is a well-documented "halo effect" whereby more people claim to have voted for the winner--polling people about who they supported in 1960 made it look like Kennedy won in a landslide.
Yes, Vilsack and Harkin won comfortably in 2002, by larger margins than final polls suggested, though I don't have the numbers in front of me.
Neither of their opponents was a great candidate, but 2002 was a big Republican year, and Dem turnout in presidential years in Iowa is always better than in off-years.
As a "precinct captain" for Kerry in the Des Moines suburbs, I can tell you that there is tremendous energy on our side. I hear lots of stories about Republicans or independents who voted for Bush in 2000 but are now for Kerry.
I will comment mostly on IA because I live here and have been involved in the Kerry campaign as a volunteer for a year. Gore won this state by a little more than 4,000 votes out of about 1.3 million cast in 2000.
I entirely agree with the comment above about how these states were close in 2000 primarily because of Nader (he did much better in WI than in IA, but even here he got around 25,000 votes).
I unfortunately know a lot of people who voted for Nader in Iowa last time around. Every single one of them is voting for Kerry now. This includes people who worked hard on Nader's campaign and have been active in the Green Party. Before the Iowa caucuses they mostly supported Kucinich, some Dean, but all are totally on board with Kerry.
In new voter registrations since 2000 the Democrats are miles ahead of Republicans in both IA and WI. In IA I believe we have registered something like 35,000 to 40,000 more new voters than the GOP since 2000.
The former Naderites plus the new registrants alone give Kerry a slight edge in Iowa. Our GOTV is pretty good on the Democratic side, as shown by the fact that we reelected Governor Tom Vilsack and Senator Tom Harkin by healthy margins in 2002, a big Republican year nationwide. ACT and MoveOn are also active here, which will further improve our GOTV.
As a "precinct captain" I've been making phone calls and striking up conversations with literally hundreds of people I don't know, along with just about everyone I do know. I have heard of two Iowans who voted for Gore in 2000 but are for Bush this year.
I have lost count of the number of stories I've heard about people who voted for Bush last time but are for Kerry now, or are not voting for either candidate. This includes some lifelong Republicans I know personally. Some of them are not just voting for Kerry, they are asking me for Kerry/Edwards yard signs.
I spoke with a former teacher of mine today. He was down at the party HQ for a canvassing training session on Saturday morning, and he ran into an elderly woman (late 70s) he knew from the time he taught her son in high school. She has always voted Republican but is now for Kerry, and she said a lot of her moderate Republican friends are going the same way. Stem cell research seemed to be a big issue with her.
If an elderly lifelong Republican is attending a volunteer training session to help get out the vote for Kerry, Bush is toast.
I saw all the candidates up close in Iowa, and so did my politically active friends.
I like Dean a lot, but I strongly disagree with anyone who thinks the man could have beaten Bush. Four people I know declared themselves Dean supporters in spring 2003 because of his stand on the war. By September all of them had seen Dean several more times in person (along with many of the other candidates), and all four rejected Dean. This was not because the media told them Dean was unelectable, but because they decided they didn't like him, they didn't like his manner, and they thought he would turn other people off as well.
Early in the campaign, I leaned toward Bob Graham--he was anti-war and had won five statewide elections in FL by big margins, so I figured he was pretty electable. Obviously I didn't have my finger on the pulse of the electorate!
In the end I picked Kerry because I liked his stand on many of the issues (especially the environment, where Dean was no hero in Vermont). I thought Edwards had too little experience to win, and Dean also failed my "can he beat Bush" test. I then became a "precinct captain" for Kerry and spent three months trying to win people over to him. The biggest hurdle I found in November and December 2003 was convincing people that Kerry could win--many people told me they liked him best but Dean seemed to be the one picking up support, energizing people, raising the most money. Reluctantly, they leaned toward Dean. By January this type of voter realized they did not have to support Dean just because he led in the polls.
I do not have time or space here to describe all of the conversations I had with Democrats and voters in general who disliked Dean. This ranged from very educated, informed people who saw all the candidates in person many times to people who didn't follow the campaign closely at all. A couple of weeks before the caucuses I was sounding out a bank teller, encouraging her to register and go to her caucus. She was reluctant because she felt she didn't know much about the race. Her comment that sticks in my mind was, "The only one I know I wouldn't vote for is Dean." This scared the hell out of me, because in November and December I (like everyone else) figured that Dean would win the nomination eventually.
You can blame the media for this if you like, but a lot of Iowans who weren't watching the race through the media filter were equally turned off by Dean. As I say, I liked Dean's style myself and I think he would have been a great president. But as tough as things may look for Kerry, I believe Dean would have been in a MUCH deeper hole at this stage of the campaign.