GOP nabs Dems' Florida playbook

By Farhad Manjoo
Published October 22, 2004 12:09AM (EDT)

This morning the Republican Party sent reporters a remarkably detailed, day-by-day plan for victory in Florida over the next couple weeks -- the Democrats' victory, that is. Republicans somehow got a hold of the Democrats' campaign handbook, a 46-page document (PDF) called "Victory 2004 Florida Coordinated Campaign" that lays out in mind-numbing detail how Democrats (and progressive groups aligned with the party) plan to get out the vote this year. It specifies how many votes they're aiming to win, which voters they're planning to target, how much time and money they plan to spend on each targeted demographic, how many volunteers they plan to recruit to carry out these goals, and finally, how optimistic they are of victory (mildly optimistic, it seems, but definitely not cocky).

Officially, the Republicans released the handbook not to prove how slick they are in their capacity to suss out the Dems' plans, but rather to try to show that the Kerry team is breaking the law. The get-out-the-vote plan, which the handbook projects will cost between two and three million dollars, calls for participation by the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, the Florida Education Association, and other third-party groups. The Democrats are acting, therefore, "in direct violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act," Joseph Agostini, the spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, told War Room. Republicans say that the participation of these groups amounts to "coordination" between third-party organizations and the Kerry campaign, a no-no under the McCaign-Feingold campaign finance regime; the GOP told the Associated Press that it plans to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission this week. Florida Democrats were unavailable for comment, but they denied any wrongdoing, according to the AP.

If you're the sort of political junkie whose idea of a fun afternoon is studying the details of media buys for Congressional campaigns, you'll definitely want to read the Dems' handbook in its entirety. For the rest of you, here's the skinny: In a perfect world, the Kerry-Edwards team would like to win at least 52 percent of the predicted vote in Florida, or about 3,314,240 votes. That's about 400,000 more votes than Al Gore received in 2000, a deficit that the Kerry team plans to make up by "[increasing] our base lead in the three South Florida counties" and "minimizing Republican gains in northern Florida," especially by boosting early and absentee voting among minorities.

The party will focus on boosting turnout in African-American and non-cuban Hispanic communities, as well as more than 900,000 people it identifies as "swing voters," with "particular attention paid to women in the I-4 corridor between Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach." In addition, Democrats hope to win over seniors, gay people, Haitian immigrants, and the previously unnoticed swing-voter categories of "sportsmen" and "Republican women (esp. with Democratic husbands)." The handbook also notes that "a Jewish vote plan is being developed."

Any Floridian who counts himself as part of one of these groups can expect to be bombarded by get-out-the-vote phone calls, mailings and canvassing visits until Election Day. Depending on which category you're in, expect at least half-a-dozen phone calls, some from real people (requiring at least 24,282 volunteer call-center shifts) and some from robots. Look for Democrats coming to your door, too, especially if you're a condominium dweller: "A Condo Commando Program will use our precinct captain and volunteer structure to turn out condominium residents for the Early Vote program," the playbook says. "The target audience of the program is white, middle class retirees who live in condominium communities, primarily in the Palm Beach-Broward corridor."

Beyond commenting on the alleged campaign finance violations, Agostini and other Republicans we contacted declined to discuss how they acquired the handbook, or whether they saw anything in it that worried, surprised or pleased them. But the GOP has to be at least a bit concerned; the Democratic plan is far more ambitious than anything the party planned four years ago. Now that they've got the handbook in their clutches, the Republicans might be OK if they can just figure out how to win over all the condo-owning, homosexual, senior-citizen, Haitian Republican women with Democratic sportsmen husbands, in Miami.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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