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What Rove and Mehlman wanted to figure out was the code for increasing the number of Republican voters who could be reliably summoned to the polls--a code that, once cracked, could be used to win election after election. "We want to turn 75%-Republican areas into 78%- or 79%-Republican areas while at the same time turning 15% areas into 18% or 19% areas," says Mike DuHaime, political director of the R.N.C.
In the off year of 2001, the creators of the 72-Hour program tested it in odd, lower-profile contests, including court races in Pennsylvania. The Bushies picked clusters of precincts where they quietly tried their new methods, then compared those with similar precincts where the campaigns did things the more traditional way. Those experiments helped Republicans develop a handful of precepts that constitute the party's playbook for this fall:
1. Learn from the past Fifteen G.O.P. data experts spent months after the '04 election comparing turnout records from the swing states with the Bush-Cheney campaign's databases to figure out the optimal amount of mail, phone calls and door knocks that would persuade a probable G.O.P. voter to go to the polls.
2. Draw in new voters The Bush-Cheney campaign used state records to locate potential Republicans with Florida State University license plates, then had fellow Seminoles call them to sound out their views. Whereas parties used to go after certain precincts or ZIP codes, Republicans now know even which individual households they want through microtargeting--the use of computerized consumer data, from magazine subscriptions to charitable contributions, to help locate voters who are likely to vote Republican if they turn out. Other telltale signs of potential latent Republicanism are snowmobile ownership and enrollment in private schools.
3. Low tech can be better Caller ID, TiVo, cable channels and satellite radio all make it harder to reach voters than it was just a few years ago, increasing the importance of person-to-person appeals, the hallmark of old-fashioned, grassroots campaigns that used to connote an amateur or a low budget. "You clearly have to have TV ads," says White House political-affairs director Sara Taylor, "but for a little less TV, you can buy a whole lot of pizzas and phone lines and salaries for young men and women right out of college" to make phone calls, knock on doors and recruit and manage volunteers.
4. Details, details The shopping list includes everything from chairs to cell phones for hundreds of workers for Republican Party victory committees, whose staffs are charged with creating state turnout machines. The G.O.P. says their volunteer forces in '04 proved to be more effective than the paid workers contracted by Democrats, unions and Democrat- oriented fund-raising groups. Even Election Day comes sooner for Republicans, who have begun putting a huge effort into locking down absentee voters and vote-by-mail ballots in states that use them.