They came to New Orleans this month for the Sugar Bowl, but the “Bush-Cheney 04” campaign volunteers care more about politics than football.
Volunteer Kimberly Allen said even 10 months before Election Day, the campaign is now. “I think it’s just getting a jump start on the competition, you know. There’s no need for us to wait and figure out who the Dems put out at their convention.”
Legions of Bush-Cheney organizers are canvassing the country registering new voters in battleground states and signing up volunteers for help with voter turnout — a ground game that Bush advisers claim is unparalleled in political history.
According to Ralph Reed of the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, “I mean, we have 6 million e-mails. We will have a million team leaders by the time we get to Election Day — that’s one for every 50 Bush voters.”
The nerve center of the re-election drive is Bush-Cheney headquarters in Northern Virginia, where staffers have compiled an e-mail list 10 times the size of Democrat Howard Dean’s and count the money. The campaign war chest is expected to top a record $170 million.
Too busy for politics?
But while all of this is happening, President Bush himself sticks to the official line: that he’s too busy to think about politics, “I admit, I’m loosening up. I’m getting ready. But right now I’m focusing on the business of the people,” the president says.
In fact, advisers close to the White House paint a much different picture. They say the president has dictated the themes of the re-election, is deeply in involved in tactics and has a keen interest in the Democratic field.
White House politics have been on display since the first of the year — take Wednesday’s rollout on space exploration, immigration reform and the promotion of Bush’s education plan.
“Everything they’ve done has been geared toward adding a few percentage points here and there with all the key constituency groups to get him back in for a second term,” said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.
All of which proves this is less a campaign kickoff than a game well under way.