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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) — The selection of Paul Ryan to be the Republican vice-presidential candidate has galvanized both parties’ bases. The Wisconsin congressman is Velcro for his side and Teflon for Democrats.

That enthusiasm is critical in an election that will be awash in cash from the well-heeled campaigns and the outside groups unleashed by court and political decisions. Voters in Columbus, Ohio, or Orlando, Florida, will be carpet-bombed with television commercials. The volume of ads will be overwhelming – – it’ll be like underlining every paragraph in a book — and many are likely to tune out.

Another aspect of this U.S. presidential election is a closely divided electorate with a smaller-than-usual bloc of uncommitted or persuadable voters, maybe in the high single digits.

That suggests both sides will place a premium on turnout. That’s what has been known as the ground game, old-fashioned shoe leather to identify and enlist supporters, except this time it’s lubricated by cutting-edge technology: social media, databases, micro-targeting and micro-listening.

Michael Whouley, the storied Democratic ground-game guru, and Curt Anderson, who helped mastermind President George W. Bush’s successful voter mobilization in 2004, say getting voters to the polls will be even more critical this time.

President Barack Obama’s forces have started with an advantage: an extensive infrastructure built on the foundation of the 2008 effort. They say they’ve been further aided by the selection of Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, whose policies are anathema to most core Democratic constituencies.

Republicans counter that Ryan energizes their base to turn out heavily in November. In addition, outside groups, funded by fat cats such as the Koch brothers, are also working to turn out conservatives.

Contrasting the demographic vote in linchpin states in 2008, when Obama was victorious, and those where Republicans triumphed in the 2010 congressional elections, underscores the importance of turnout. The figures are from the national exit polls.

In the last presidential race, 18 percent of the turnout consisted of voters ages 18 to 29 who went for Obama by better than two to one. Senior citizens — 65 and older — were a slightly smaller bloc and backed the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona. By contrast, in 2010, the senior vote dwarfed the youth vote in Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Colorado, among other states.

The Obama campaign’s biggest challenge probably will be to come close to the 2008 result with the youth vote. The environment is tougher — Obama captured the imagination of many young voters last time and that will be hard to replicate with an economy that is now punishing that age group.

The campaign says its efforts this time are more extensive and sophisticated — targeting 16 million potential first-time young voters.