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Lindquist, an art-school grad who has delivered pizza, has worked as a crew member on a blimp and is a photographer, has been making about $10 an hour, six days a week, doing this kind of work for ACT since January. Democratic veterans like former state party chairman Paul Tipps say ACT's operation is more focused and better coordinated than any they have ever seen in politics. But others are worried whether outside operators who are being sent into urban neighborhoods will really connect with and galvanize a notoriously recalcitrant group of voters. Or even keep track of them: at several houses where Lindquist stopped that afternoon, the registered voter had moved without leaving a phone number or forwarding address. "We don't bring 300 kids from Ohio State University into the inner city of Columbus," says David Leland, national director of Project Vote, a nonpartisan arm of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which claims it has registered more than 50,000 voters in the Columbus area. "I don't know that they have the same credibility, and they're not as effective" as community activists, says Leland. Adds a top Republican official: "They are registering people who historically don't vote. It's sloppy, and it's very hard to do the follow-up work."
By comparison, the G.O.P. effort is hyperpersonal. The Republicans are relying on volunteers like Billie Fiore, a paralegal by day and Licking County's Bush-Cheney campaign coordinator the rest of the time. The front seat of her station wagon is filled with maps, the back with yard signs. Fiore has replaced the baskets of voter-registration materials she once carried in the back seat with absentee-ballot forms to give to potential Bush voters who might not make it to the polls on Election Day. She says workers from her pool of 3,000 volunteers are making a total of 500 to 1,000 calls a night, and she's happiest when the numbers they bring back show 80% for Bush. And while the Bush campaign would like more than 63% of the vote in Licking County, Fiore hopes to bump it up to more than 70%. When volunteers aren't working the phones, they are given other tasks: writing letters to the editor, calling talk radio, distributing yard signs. The campaign watches their quotas closely all the while for indications of flagging interest. The reward for a job well done might be the best seats at a Bush rally or a signed photograph from the President.
It's around Election Day that the real push begins. By then, the state G.O.P. wants to have each volunteer take responsibility for turning out 25 specific households that are likely to vote for Bush. The staffing charts for the past five days are already on the wall at the Licking County headquarters in suburban Columbus. By last Monday, 350 shifts were filled with 100 volunteers. Republicans, like Democrats, say this is an operation unlike any they have ever seen. "The grass-roots effort did not exist in 2000," says Richard Finan, a former G.O.P. state senate president who is working with a group called Catholics for Bush. "We tend to think grass roots is less sexy, but it does the job."