Republicans are known for their vaunted "72 hour" get-out-the-vote strategy, a massive operation that commences three days prior to a general election. It looks like Team Romney is preparing to kick off its 2012 GOTV effort in style; they've orchestrated a mammoth rally tonight at 7pm ET in West Chester, Ohio -- a suburb of Cincinnati. Who will be there? As far as GOP politics is concerned, the better question might be who won't be there. Take a look at this list:
In addition to Mitt and Ann Romney and Paul and Janna Ryan, the Romney campaign has announced that the following will attend: John McCain and his wife, Cindy; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback; Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Marco Rubio (Fla.), John Thune (S.D.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.); former senator Norm Coleman (Minn.); former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge; Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus; Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah); former congressman Artur Davis (Ala.); Olympic champion speed skater Derek Parra; Olympic champion figure skater Scott Hamilton; champion golfer Jack Nicklaus; as well as Tagg and Jen Romney, Matt and Laurie Romney, Josh Romney, Ben Romney and Craig and Mary Romney, and BFA Chairman James Irvine. Kid Rock will perform.
It's like they're going to relive the entire Republican convention at a single rally, minus Chris Christie, who's a little preoccupied at the moment. As the Big Day draws near, signs of a ground-swell of Republican optimism and momentum are beginning to bubble up across the map. National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru says high-level Republicans he's speaking to are finally starting to believe Romney is pretty well-positioned to pull this thing off, even as most liberals remain supremely confident (at least publicly) that Obama's headed for a win:
...They seem to really have confidence: more confidence, in fact, than I remember roughly the same group of people having at this point in 2004. The group I have in mind includes people who are often pessimistic about Republican chances, and mostly people who are outside the Romney campaign. It includes people who read Nate Silver a fair amount and respect him, but disagree with him. Their projections range from a toss-up to a strong Romney win.
One group of experts or another is in for a rude awakening next week. Who's it going to be? The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin has gotten her hands on an internal GOP memo in Iowa, which portend sunny things for Romney, Inc. In short, Republicans have cut deeply into Democrats' typically large early voting advantage, and will have many more high-propensity voters at the ready on election day. Two interesting nuggets:
Republicans are even over-performing their share of ballots returned in 71 of 99 counties compared to 2004, the first time a Republican candidate carried Iowa in a presidential election since 1984, and are over-performing 2004 statewide. An Iowa Republican tells me, “I have seen polling from a third-party group, three congressionals, our state Senate campaigns and state House campaigns — all using different pollsters, and ALL of them have Romney rising, and ALL of them have Romney with a 1 to 2 point lead.”
Jim Geraghty's best source sounds even more upbeat:
FL, VA, and CO are looking very solid for Romney. NV remains within reach for Romney, but favors Obama ever-so-slightly. WI, MI, IA, PA seem to be closing well for Romney. In WI, internal GOP polling shows Romney with a 1 point lead and gaining steam. MN and PA aren’t head fakes by Team Romney; they are legitimate opportunities to expand Mitt’s electoral map.
Ohio remains "too close to call." Most of the state-level polls still look shaky for Romney, but Karl Rove is hearing good things about Romney's ground operation and certain early voting trends. Time will tell, obviously. But if Pennsylvania isn't a "head fake" by Team Romney, wouldn't they be sending their principals to the state to campaign? Indeed they would:
Paul Ryan is campaigning in central Pennsylvania on Saturday, holding a rally near Harrisburg that afternoon. It's the second time he's been in the state recently — he visited the Pittsburgh area earlier this month (though that could also be because it borders battleground state Ohio).
Yeah, but that's just Paul Ryan (who's also headed to Minneapolis, incidentally). If they were really serious about their chances, they'd send in the Big Dog. Okay:
Mitt Romney plans to campaign in Pennsylvania this weekend, the clearest indicator yet that the Republican nominee believes he can snatch the state and its 20 electoral votes from President Obama. Two campaign officials confirmed that Romney would stop in the Philadelphia area on Sunday amid a cross-country tour of battleground states.
What would it take for Mitt to pull the upset in PA? Click through and listen for some good analysis. It's still a long-ish shot, I think, but you never know where an undertow election might take you. At this stage, I honestly have no idea what to expect on Tuesday. There are credible arguments on both sides about what the turnout will look like and who has the advantage. At some point, the polls and the chatter becomes irrelevant -- and we may even be beyond that rubicon. The only things that will matter are who has already voted, and who will show up at the polls in four days.