Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Republican officials preparing for a tough election in November have begun to redeploy the voter turnout army of volunteers who produced the GOP's sweeping victory in 2004.

At a time when voters are in a sour mood and the GOP-run Congress is experiencing its lowest approval polls in years, Republican operatives here have reactivated their ground forces in key battleground states. These campaign workers have been sending in weekly reports on the number of new Republican voters they have identified and registered in strategic toss-up races, using a vast e-mail network linking district, state, regional and national party operations.

The full scope of this effort remains largely under wraps, but top party officials have broadly described it to me because they want to get the word out that the GOP will be playing to its strengths this fall: rebuilding a massive get-out-the-vote drive that is far more effective than anything the Democrats have been able to put together.

It resembles the 2004 outreach organization, only this time the GOP will be using "micro-targeting" technology to thwart the Democrats' fierce offensive to win control of Congress.

"Every single week our volunteers make tens of thousands of contacts with targeted voters," a senior Republican Party official told me. Right now, the number of volunteers is in the thousands, but eventually will grow into hundreds of thousands in the general election this fall.

While Republican National Committee officials have declined to talk in specifics about it, RNC political director Mike DuHaime confirmed that, "The organization is certainly in place and we're moving forward. It's kind of like a muscle that you have to keep exercising in order to keep it in shape."

However, a senior party operative who is intimately involved in the voter turnout project described a large and growing grassroots force that is given a set number of goals that have to be met each week.

"What we are doing now is relatively small compared to what we will be doing in the fall," the operative said. "We probably had a technological edge in 2004, but we're harnessing more technical power this time, bringing new efficiencies to what is really old fashioned grassroots politics."

Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee are among several dozen states that will be targeted by the GOP volunteers.

In addition, the GOP already has "active organizations on the ground, meaning paid staff, in more than two dozen states that will be greatly expanded in the months to come," this official said.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.