Opinion: While you watched the debate, Obama enrolled new Missouri voters

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While everyone’s attention was focused on last night’s presidential town hall debate in Nashville, the well-organized ground game of the well-financed Barack Obama campaign kept on grinding away at its voter registration drive in Missouri. And elsewhere.

These are the kinds of sweaty, unglamorous, off-the-radar strategies that make the real difference on election day -- as about-to-be-President John F. Kerry, a Democrat, found out to his unhappy surprise late on election day in 2004 when enough registered evangelicals suddenly showed up in Ohio to prove the early exit polls extremely erroneous and reelect George W. Bush. As arranged by Karl Rove’s minions weeks before.

Missouri is a key target state for Obama -- next door to Illinois, once fairly reliably GOP but recently trending Democratic. Why try to persuade too many traditional voters to go for your man when you can just sign up thousands of new, already committed ones?

With Missouri’s voter registration deadline set for 5 p.m. today, Obama volunteers are registering new voters virtually around the clock. In St. Louis, they have nine ‘Would you like change with that?’ drive-through centers where motorists can complete the registration in three minutes and be on their way.

In Kansas City, according to an Obama news release, volunteers like Earlene Meckelvey have been working the grocery stores, beauty shops and diners daily since early summer, racking up about 20 new voters apiece per day.


In college towns across the state, young volunteers are signing up classmates at outdoor tables or cafeterias.

The goal is to enroll 75,000 new voters before the deadline this afternoon.

To drive home the point and energize folks, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden will barnstorm the state Thursday and Friday. Such tag-team struggles are going on in key states across the country.

Just for fun, make a note to check out the Missouri voter tallies come Nov. 4. See how well they did. And if it made a difference in the electoral vote count.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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