The 2012 presidential election will be won by the get out the vote (GOTV) actions of the two parties, and the state of their ground games is critical to achieve a high GOTV turnout.
To put the ground games in perspective, each party will make around 40 million ‘voter contacts’. In Canadian terms, that’s about 4 million such voter contacts:
Messina told the Democratic National Convention five weeks ago that the campaign and its supporters had made 43 million calls and registered more than 1 million voters, more than Democrats registered in 2008.
Republican officials, alarmed by Obama's operation, have made a point of building the party's most extensive ground organization to date. Since Romney clinched the Republican nomination in the spring, nearly 108,000 volunteers nationwide have made close to 40 million "voter contacts" and knocked on about 7.5 million doors, a party official said.
Among other things, the campaigns have used demographic reports from companies that track consumers' spending habits and social network activity to help identify "unlikely voters" - those who probably will not cast a ballot in the November 6 election and rarely have in previous elections.
For unlikely voters, personal contact from a campaign staffer can be key to reinforcing the notion that their vote matters and that it is worth their time to vote.
"Sophisticated campaigns know that there are voters who, if they are left to their own devices, they won't turn out," said Christopher Mann, a political scientist at the University of Miami. "Changing that behavior and getting those people to the polls is what it's all about."
Obama might enjoy an advantage given his incumbency role, although the Republicans dispute this:
Democrats say the breadth of Obama's organization is unprecedented in national politics - a claim that draws skepticism from Republicans, who have built a large get-out-the-vote operation of their own.
One thing is clear, however: Obama's organization - which his campaign says involves hundreds of thousands of people nationwide - reflects the power of incumbency.
Some of Obama's local offices never closed after the historic 2008 election that made him the nation's first black president. As a result, Obama is viewed even by some Republicans as having an advantage in on-the-ground organization, the trench-warfare part of a national campaign.
Personal contact is critical:
Varsallo said volunteers run into a lot of apathy from people who "don't feel that their votes count."
But he says an in-person conversation with a campaign volunteer can change that.
"When they see our positive energy and how we believe in it, it rubs off," he said. "It's contagious."