One of the few arguments that Republicans have left to defend President Bush and the Republican Congress's abysmal poll numbers is the line that: polls don't mean anything, winning elections is what counts. They will then cite the 2004 exit polls as proof that all polls are unreliable and therefore President Bush must be wildly popular across the country, if only the "blue-state elitists" and the "liberal media" would take notice.
Leaving this silliness aside, there appears to be a legitimate argument as to whether or not the Republicans have a highly superior get-out-the-vote (GOTV) machine that allows them to win elections and that polls cannot fully measure. Such an argument is going to be made by Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger in their upcoming book One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century. According to Taegan Goddard, the book examines "the Republican party's dominance in redistricting, using computer technology to turn out their core supporters at the polls and why modern polling no longer accurately tracks their progress."
Some argue that if the Democrats want to win elections, they will have to stop relying on labor and GOTV groups to turn out blue voters, but will have to build a system within the party that is similar to that of the Republicans.
However, in a recent post at the Daily Strategist, Alan Abramowitz laid out the case that the Democratic ground game isn't in as bad shape as many would have us believe.
An op-ed by Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger in Sunday's L.A. Times gives the impression that the GOP now enjoys a clear advantage when it comes to voter mobilization. However, the evidence from the 2004 election simply doesn't support this view. According to the 2004 National Election Study, both parties dramatically increased their voter mobilization efforts in 2004 but Democrats did a better job of contacting voters than Republicans. According to the NES survey, the percentage of voters contacted by the GOP increased from 26 percent in 2000 to 29 percent in 2004 while the percentage contacted by Democrats increased from 23 percent in 2000 to 32 percent in 2004.
Ohio in 2004 is often cited as an example of the GOP's superiority in the ground game but, again, the evidence doesn't support this view. Between 2000 and 2004, the Republican vote in Ohio increased by an impressive 21.7% but the Democratic vote increased by an even more impressive 25.4%.
Recently it has been argued that Rep. Chris Cannon's (R-UT) primary victory (which came with the assistance of White House "robocalls") and Rep. Brian Bilbray's (R-CA) triumph over netroots favorite Francine Busby were due to advanced GOTV tactics that turned out voters by identifying their hot-button issues. Whether or not there is such a GOP GOTV machine may well be discovered after the 2006 elections -- which could be the its biggest test yet.