Tech: Election Game Changer

If the presidential election is decided by a narrow margin, folks like Michael Adamson could make all the difference, with a little high-tech help.

A stock trader who lives on a farm outside the small town of Madison, N.C., Adamson is a volunteer for the Barack Obama campaign. He leads a team of about 15 local volunteers in Rockingham County, a largely rural area with a population of slightly more than 90,000 people. Adamson’s group is responsible for five precincts, home to about 6,000 registered voters.

Other teams, all supported by just one paid staffer, are active across Rockingham, which went decisively for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Similar operations are in place across North Carolina–a state that Democratic presidential candidates have not seriously contested in years–and in other states around the country.

Together, these numerous small organizations give the Obama campaign an army of volunteers, all coordinated via a campaign Web site called that ties into extensive data-bases of potential voters. The technology is crucial to the work the volunteers are doing.

“If you don’t have the right tools, you can’t get the job done,” says Adamson, who volunteered on numerous state and local races, along with two other presidential campaigns. “This is the best-organized campaign I’ve seen in terms of the ground game.”

And the ground game–getting people registered to vote, getting them energized and getting them to turn out to vote–could be decisive in a close race. “The strongest organization on the ground can make up two or three points,” says Joe Trippi, veteran Democratic strategist and CBS News analyst who helped architect the Howard Dean campaign’s groundbreaking Internet strategy. “It can’t make up for all the other factors that can come into play, but if it’s near a dead heat going into Election Day, the superior ground operation will win.”

In this aspect of the presidential race, Obama’s tech-savvy campaign may have an advantage over John McCain’s. “This will be the biggest get-out-the-vote operation in the history of America,” Trippi says.

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