Democrats: It's all about turnout

The outcome of the Democratic race is entirely resting on turnout at this point, much more than on the GOP side. Since the Des Moines Register poll was released on Monday, all campaigns and observers are speculating about who will show up to caucus tomorrow night: How many new caucus-goers will there be, and what will be the proportion of independents and Republicans who will go attend the Democratic caucuses?

These have always been questions in the background of coverage of the race, but they picked-up with particular intensity when the DMR poll highlighted just how much increased turnout and independent voter participation could boost Barack Obama. The Obama campaign has actively reached out to non-Democrats in Iowa to get them to come caucus tomorrow and while Hillary Clinton is also heavily depending on first-time caucus goers, a huge boost in turnout would no doubt be due to Obama's outreach.

But is the Obama campaign disillusional? Gordon Fisher, the Iowa co-chair of the Obama campaign, told Marc Ambinder today that he was projecting a turnout of 200,000. That would be huge: 125,000 Iowans voted in the Democratic caucuses in 2004, and while it appears certain that tomorrow's turnout will beat that given the unprecedented ground game of the top candidates, 200,000 seems like too much. Possible, sure, and if it happens Obama is in awesome shape -- the DMR poll basically models a similar boost.

But rival campaigns are (nervously) mocking the possibility of such a gigantic turnout increase. And Obama staffers have acknowledged that their own internal polls do not project similar proportion of independent. Yet, their internal polls apparently have Obama leading as well -- so keep that in mind because it probably means they are also betting on many a significant proportion of independents.

Meanwhile, both Obama and Clinton aired a two-minute ad this evening around the evening news as their closing argument. There really isn't any big surprise in their ads, so I will not comment on them at length but do watch them if you are interested: the Clinton ad is here, and Obama's is available here.

And one more interesting story tonight: Hillary Clinton has chosen to spend the last night before the Iowa caucuses on David Letterman -- his first show back after Letterman reached an agreement with the writer's union which is on strike. I guess that there isn't much more a candidate can do at this point, but how much a boost can Letterman possibly provide in the caucuses? We'll have to stay tuned to see whether Clinton is going to use this for some kind of announcement.

Meanwhile, Clinton can at least take some comfort in her leads -- albeit sometimes small -- in today's New Hampshire polls:

  • Suffolk's new daily numbers hae Clinton up massively, 37% to 20% with 16% for Edwards.
  • The poll of Franklin Pierce have somewhat tighter numbers: 32% to 28%, with Edwards at 19%.
Notice that Edwards is moving up in New Hampshire and while he is still far from the two front-runners he has set himself in a good position to surge in case he gets a win tomorrow and we could very well have a three-way New Hampshire race in our hands.

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