- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

Democrats said yesterday they will execute their biggest voter-turnout operation ever for Tuesday's elections, and said Republicans can't match their effort.

"We have gas in our vans, we have gas in our trucks, we have sound-truck tapes, we have literature for our churches, we have all sorts of posters for our barbershops and beauty salons," said Donna Brazile, who is heading the Democratic Party's turnout effort this year.

Democratic gains in the U.S. House in 1998 and in the Senate in 2000 have been widely attributed to a well-organized operation to mobilize Democratic "base" voters, particularly blacks, and the party promised to continue that this year.

"The Democratic Party, starting really in '96, certainly in 2000 and more than ever now, because of all this leadership, is getting a better grass-roots, on the ground, human contact 'get out the vote' than we've ever done at any time in our history," House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, said yesterday at a rally to promote their efforts to reporters.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, pointed to Democrats' door-to-door effort in Iowa as an example of what Democrats can do.

"What really is happening is more people, active people, organized, pulling out the vote," said Mrs. Lowey. She said Democrats have put 500 persons in 40 competitive House districts around the country to do the basic footwork.

But Republicans say they have learned from previous elections and will be competitive in this year's "ground war."

"It's something we either have taken for granted or not executed as well as we should have," said Kevin Sheridan, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

Republicans have formed a 72-hour task force, designed to focus on the same basics Democrats are concentrating on: passing out literature and knocking on doors of identified solid voters the weekend before the election, driving voters to the polls, asking voters to consider voting early or absentee in those states that allow it, and manning phone banks.

In addition, House Republican leaders are having safe Republican incumbents offer part of their volunteer corps to nearly two dozen districts where the elections are competitive.

Democrats, though, said they don't think Republicans can compete. Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe called their plans "a lot of talk, no action."

Republicans, meanwhile, said Democrats' appeal to their voters is devoid of substance.

"It's very fitting that Democrats announced their turnout strategy on the eve of Halloween, because their turnout is based on scare tactics and ghost-voting," said Stuart Roy, spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and one of the leaders of the House turnout operation.

Democrats yesterday also predicted record turnout for a midterm election, and said that bodes well for them. Mr. Gephardt said he sees a backlash against Republicans' handling of the economy brewing among the electorate.

But Larry Harris, one of the principles at Mason Dixon Polling and Research, said he hasn't detected any national currents moving voters this year, and that will lead to a low-turnout election.

"People are not particularly fired up nationally. They might be in Florida, they might be in Minnesota, they'll be fired up in New Jersey. But voters in a lot of places are given the choice between vanilla and vanilla, and they'll pick vanilla every time," Mr. Harris said.

Amy Fagan contributed to this article.

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