New Orleans I was asked by several friends and associates why there is so much screaming about ACORN from the Republicans, especially these wild accusations about ACORN’s role in the financial meltdown and even more so around problems with voter registration. The yelling from McCain and Republican National Committee (RNC) forces are really pretty easy to plot since the pattern of their complaints follows almost exactly where they are losing ground and in many cases, perhaps more importantly, have fallen behind in party registrations.
Quickly adding that ACORN and Project Vote’s voter registration efforts are aggressively non-partisan, they still occur nonetheless in poorer and more minority communities where ACORN in the strongest and a name brand, and it is well documented that the excitement in many of these communities for the last six to nine months around Obama’s candidacy has been palpable leading to record registrations, voting turnouts in the primaries, and crowds lining up to hear him speak. Over the last week or so, ACORN and Project Vote announced that they had registered 1.3 million new voters — a record for their joint work. Much of the work was also in states that become battlegrounds in recent elections and are critical “must have” targets for both candidates this time around as well.
It all started with the announcement on the eve of the debate between Biden and Pailin on October 2nd, which may end up being the key date marking the beginning of the end for the McCain candidacy, when his campaign announced that they were abandoning Michigan, one of the key contests in this election. The Wall Street Journal as one example reported on the same day that voter registration rolls in eight competitive states were showing a significant jump for Democrats over Republicans in new registrations. Significantly, Nevada for the first time showed an overall edge for Democratic registrations over Republicans.
In many states which do not allow “same-day registrations” or other streamlined procedures, the cutoff for new registrations is 30 days out from the election. These early October announcements were extremely timely since they were in essence early reports from the front on the excitement of the electorate and how they were “voting with their feet” on the issue of parties, and because of the weaknesses of parties, that really means, on candidates. This set the scene for the panic we have now been seeing and hearing, and the excesses and abuses it has caused.
Nevada was not alone. New Democratic registrations also jumped hugely ahead of Republicans in New Mexico, North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. All of these states are “must” states for McCain, and many of them have been keys to the Bush victories in recent years. Florida has been notorious in that regard, but North Carolina has been solidly in the Republican column for years and now even Senator Elizabeth Dole is reportedly in grave trouble of being unseated in that state. Other long time Republican barometer states on the McCain “must” list like Indiana and Missouri are now solidly in play as potential bellwether areas moving towards the Obama column. Ohio continues to be crucial to everyone.
Last cycle the RNC in the 11th hour orchestrated filings attacking ACORN through coordinated complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Nothing came of these matters and all of them were dismissed as groundless after the election, but that is hardly important in looking at the political equation. The point for the RNC then (and now) is whether or not they could stir up enough dust clouds to energize their party faithful and confuse the moderates sufficiently. All of this in states like New Mexico and Missouri famously led to the political hatchet job firings of US Attorneys in those states for not joining the attack on ACORN and eventually to the resignation of Attorney General (and Bush crony) Gonzales for allowing the wholesale politicization of the Justice Department.
This is merely a second verse to the same song.
Nevada registration moves solidly to the Democratic column and not surprisingly there is a raid on an ACORN office in Las Vegas ostensibly looking for evidence of some kind of conspiracy to commit “voter fraud.” No charges have been filed. This is hardball politics, my friends, little more.
The other flashpoints and accusations around ACORN have followed exactly the same pattern with accusations, press calls, and the like in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, and elsewhere, all of which are battlegrounds and seeing huge Democratic registration gains.
A lone voice from officials in Colorado was interesting recently as they admitted that they had had no problem working successfully with ACORN and ACORN’s registration people. Of course the officials were not partisans in this big fight, so they were “just the facts” folks. There are not many of them left. Colorado may have also slipped more firmly into the Obama camp ending the monolithic Western vote for Republican presidential candidates for almost a generation.
Once the registration drives are done, the whole fight in elections is turnout, which means GOTV — get out the vote efforts. The Republicans are dying with panic as they see the numbers come in and how people are voting with their feet so powerfully in this contest. To have a chance on November 4th, they have to hope that they can get more of their base out than is represented by this tidal wave of new energy. If your candidate is not moving the base (despite the Pailin effort which seems mainly about stirring the base), then you better try to scare and panic them into voting, and that is the message.
ACORN just turns out to be the foil for politics at a level above the pay grade of most citizens. Don’t be fooled. There is a sea change coming and this is just part of the rip tide roaring before the water settles and calms once the votes are counted.