“Ignore the polls,” Messina said on the call to Virginia, he recalled. “There are always going to be polls showing us up. There are always going to be polls showing us down. None of that matters. What matters is your voter contacts in your state.”
Messina’s sense of urgency might seem disingenuous in the current political environment. Republican Mitt Romney has lurched from one damaging moment to the next. Recent polls show him trailing Obama in pivotal states, including Ohio and Virginia. Privately, advisers say they believe they are winning — or at least on track to do so Nov. 6.
But if there is an ongoing danger for the president, it is that his supporters will take his apparent advantages for granted — and fail to show up on Election Day.
And so as Obama’s fortunes have appeared to improve, so, too, have his campaign’s efforts to convince supporters that the race is far from over. They say they have been aided by Democrats’ deep concern over Romney’s policies, lack of details and choice of running mate in Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.). All of it has inspired Obama backers to redouble their efforts to stay engaged.
“You know what? I’m very scared about this election,” said Ann Fremgen, 59, a retired teacher from Golden, Colo., one of scores of current and former teachers sporting “Educators for Obama” shirts who listened to the president speak last week against a backdrop of Colorado’s Flatiron Range. “I would be devastated if Romney were elected. I think he is a total puppet. I am talking to people. I am here today. I have not volunteered yet, but I am going to.”
Obama’s advisers view complacency as a special threat because they have built so much of their strategy around a vast field operation to register new voters, urge them to the polls or persuade that tiny band of undecided Americans to choose Obama. The effort is entering crunch time now, with registration deadlines looming and early voting underway in a few states. But it is an effort that depends heavily on the energy and enthusiasm of thousands of field workers and volunteers across the country. Anything that could suppress that enthusiasm — like the idea that Romney is sunk — makes nerves jangle in Obama’s Chicago headquarters.
And they are facing a torrent of media coverage — and comedy routines — reinforcing the narrative that momentum favors Obama. “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart won’t stop talking about Clint Eastwood’s now-infamous monologue with a chair. Pundits have declared a recent Politico piece about dissent within the Romney campaign tantamount to an “obituary.” And most recently, the news and late-night shows have endlessly played a newly uncovered video clip of Romney declaring that nearly half of Americans “believe they are victims” and that “the government has a responsibility to take care of them.”