Friday, February 15, 2008

Clinton's strategy in Texas

Hillary Clinton, signaling the start of an aggressive drive in states she must win on March 4, has summoned the formidable political "closer" who led her 9-point Super Tuesday victory in California to run her Texas effort, sources said Thursday.
Averell "Ace" Smith, the son of former San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith, is on the ground for Clinton as her Texas state campaign manager, sources confirmed.Smith has shown an uncanny knack for identifying key demographic groups and delivering voters in his races in the nation's most populous state.
"Baseball teams have the ace pitcher that they call their 'stopper,' " said California Democratic political consultant Dan Newman regarding the Smith move. "Ace is Hillary's stopper.
"They need someone to sort through a complicated process and be targeted, and surgical, and get people out to vote - exactly as he did here," Newman said.The bespectacled Smith is considered a take-no-prisoners political operative whose dogged studies into opponents' backgrounds earned him the reputation as one of the nation's most feared opposition researchers."I've seen him walk into a room and the opposition candidate will literally start mumbling," former Democratic strategist Clint Reilly once said of him. "They're just terrified with his presence." Known as the "Doctor Death" of political opposition research, he has led winning campaigns in recent years for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Attorney General Jerry Brown.
But as the architect behind some high-profile races in the nation's most populous state, Smith has also proven adept at demographic and get-out-the-vote strategy. He was behind Clinton's Feb. 5 win in California, where polls had suggested that Obama was closing the gap.
Critical in that win, insiders said, was Smith's plan to mount an unprecedented effort tracking - and diligently calling - vote-by-mail voters in all 58 counties of California from the very first day of early voting on Jan. 7 to the day of the primary.
Smith installed campaign managers in every county, who studiously tabulated the names of voters who had cast their ballots by mail - and then undertook the time-consuming effort of calling virtually all of the unreturned ballot-holders before the Super Tuesday primary.
From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the night of the election, the campaign made more than an estimated 1 million calls - many of them on the cell phones of campaign volunteers - to California voters to make sure they went to the polls for Clinton.
Texas has an odd hybrid system that combines traditional voting and caucuses. And unlike California, there's no widespread vote-by-mail voting. In addition, voters don't register for a political party and can cast ballots in either the Democratic or Republican primary.
Texas voting is unusual in another way: Polls are open for early voting from Feb. 19 until three days before the election. That's followed by the traditional March 4 election day voting, followed by statewide caucuses after the polls close at 7 p.m. According to election rules, voters are not allowed to participate in the caucuses unless they've gone to the polls.Because Texas has not effectively been in play in a presidential primary since 1988, all this represents uncharted territory, said one Clinton supporter. (more...)

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