Campaigns move to stateWith Super Tuesday in the rearview mirror, and the state’s Feb. 19 primary on the horizon, remaining presidential contenders are putting staffers on the road to Wisconsin.
By: By GREG J. BOROWSKI/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Daily Telegram
With Super Tuesday in the rearview mirror, and the state’s Feb. 19 primary on the horizon, remaining presidential contenders are putting staffers on the road to Wisconsin.
In the race to build a campaign structure in the state, observers said, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have a head start on their rivals. But in a campaign increasingly driven by technology, advertising and enthusiasm-building rallies, others could quickly close the organizational gap.
On the Democratic side, Obama faces Hillary Rodham Clinton, while John McCain is trying to fend off Romney and Mike Huckabee for the Republican nod. Ron Paul is also still in the GOP race.
By necessity, the campaigns have spent their time, effort and money elsewhere -- first in grass-roots states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, then hop-scotching their way through Super Tuesday.
Now, with less than two weeks until Wisconsin votes, there is little time to create and implement an effort to reach likely supporters and get them to the polls in a suddenly critical state.
Here is a look at how the leading contenders stack up on both sides:
The Illinois senator was first on the air with TV and radio spots Wednesday, both underlining his turn-the-page theme of change.
Obama has two offices open, one in Milwaukee and one in Madison, and has spent the most time here of any of the candidates — two visits last year, plus one fund-raiser that his wife attended.
In a conference call with reporters, Gov. Jim Doyle said several Obama visits are expected in the coming weeks.
“The best thing going for the Barack Obama campaign is Barack Obama,” Doyle said. “People will be able to see him, to hear him.”
Several weeks ago, the call went out to activists in search of people willing to host Obama volunteers in Wisconsin. Given the proximity to Illinois, it will be easy for Obama to move staff into the state.
Early on, the New York senator received several key endorsements. Supporters believe Clinton’s network of supporters could tamp down any Obama surge in Madison.
“We will be doing a lot of door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor conversations,” said Heather Colburn, Clinton’s state organizing director. “We fully expect Senator Clinton to visit the state.”
The campaign plans to open several headquarters, Colburn said, and expects to have at least 30 full-time volunteers involved.
In recent months, as the national campaign was focused elsewhere, state backers have strategized regularly. Some have participated in get-out-the-vote calls for other states, including New Hampshire, from their offices in Wisconsin. The same sort of thing could happen here, with volunteers in other states making reminder calls to Wisconsin voters.
As of Monday, the Arizona senator had one Wisconsin supporter listed on his Web page: businessman Jon Hammes, who hosted a McCain fund-raiser last year. That underscores the campaign's focus on other states in the push to Super Tuesday.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the campaign was focused on several states that vote before Wisconsin but has begun looking at the schedule to set state visits.
“Everybody would like to be more organized,” he said. “In our case, momentum really drives increased interest and enthusiasm for our volunteers and supporters.”
The former Arkansas governor has not had a very visible operation in Wisconsin. Tim Michels, a former U.S. Senate candidate, is chairman of Huckabee’s state effort.
Michels said he and others have been working to identify likely Huckabee supporters and to create an e-mail and phone network the campaign could use. About a dozen state residents went to Iowa to work for Huckabee last month, helping him win the state’s caucus.
In other states, Huckabee has worked to connect with pastors and church leaders. Evangelical voters across the country have boosted him.
“We’ll be as ready to go as any of the campaigns are,” Michels said.
GOP strategist Mark Graul, who is not affiliated with any of the candidates said the campaigns are adept at launching a full-scale blitz on short notice.
“There are a lot of people waiting for the campaign to get here, and hoping for the campaign to get here,” Graul said. “There will be people ready, and boots on the ground, for each campaign.”
— Copyright © 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services