McCain's Ground War Offensive Ready

John McCain has a big grass-roots effort going. Jon Seaton is regional manager for the McCain campaign in the key states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. He tells Steve Inskeep that while the Obama campaign may have more money, the McCain campaign is battle tested.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. If you haven't voted yet, we're about to hear from two people who would like to meet you. They're involved in getting voters to the polls for John McCain and Barack Obama.

MONTAGNE: Republicans have an almost legendary ability to get their voters to the polls, an ability that carried President Bush to victory in 2004. This year Barack Obama built a huge organization to counter that. And this morning we'll hear from both sides.

INSKEEP: We begin with Jon Seaton. He's regional manager for McCain's campaign in the key states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Let me just ask first about Pennsylvania because this is a state where Senator McCain is behind, where Senator McCain has decided to put some ships down and really fight for it. Do you see any sign of McCain's deficit shrinking in the last few days?

Mr. JON SEATON (Ohio and Pennsylvania Regional Manager, McCain Campaign): Oh, we've certainly seen the polls tightening in Pennsylvania. We're very excited about our opportunities in the Keystone State, and especially if you look in areas where Senator Clinton ran very strong in the primary campaign. I would look in areas of northeast Pennsylvania where we've had a great reception. We look at the western side of the state. And quite frankly, we even look in the Philadelphia suburbs areas where Republicans have been struggling over the past - over the past couple of election cycles. John McCain really has always had that kind of cross-party appeal. He appeals to independent and moderate voters...

INSKEEP: Although, if I may - forgive me, I'm looking at the Real Clear Politics average of polls, various surveys, a variety of surveys. And they give Obama still a seven-point lead here the day before the election. Are you seeing something that we're not seeing in those surveys?

Mr. SEATON: Well, if you look at the Mason-Dixon poll that came out over the weekend, it had us down four. The last couple of public polls that we've seen have us down four points and closing. Internally, we feel very good about Pennsylvania. And I think all you need to do is look where John McCain and Governor Palin have been traveling lately, a lot of time in Pennsylvania. And so I think that shows you that we see a great opportunity there, and we're going to continue to contest it very strongly for the next 48 hours.

INSKEEP: Now, as you know, Mr. Seaton, Barack Obama has made a lot of news by opening so many hundreds of campaign offices across the country in state after state after state and fielding, it appears, more workers with more money than Republicans have been able to do. When you think about the mechanics of what you're going to be doing tomorrow - just making sure that your people show up, knocking on enough doors, driving people to the polls if you have to - how do you make up for that deficit, apparent deficit, in number of offices, workers, and energy?

Mr. SEATON: Sure. Well, first of all, I would dispute the energy. We're seeing very full victory and campaign offices across the state - in both of my states, frankly. We're actually making over 50 percent more contacts with voters than we made at this time in 2004. And so in terms of energy, I feel very good about the positive feeling that we're getting out of both states right now.

And as far as how we combat the huge financial advantage that Senator Obama has, we feel like we have a very battle-tested organization. We've done this a couple of times. We've never, kind of, outsourced our grassroots operation to other organizations. And so we have volunteers who are very good at this. We have a very, very experienced staff. We have a technological advantage, I believe, with our ability to capture data and get it back into our database much more quickly than the other side. So we can actually use...

INSKEEP: Oh, with computers figuring out demographics on who your voters are and that sort of thing?

Mr. SEATON: Yes.

INSKEEP: You know, when you talked about 50 percent more contacts, I suddenly had an image in my head of those McDonald's signs, "Over 10 billion served." Do you have a number of people - the number of doors you've knocked on, number of people you've spoken with?

Mr. SEATON: You know, we don't get into our specific numbers. What we do say is that, you know, where we were strong in 2004, we feel like we still have that strength in, kind of, the base Republican areas. And we also feel that we've been able to, kind of, expand our appeal outside of those traditional Republican areas into places where Republicans haven't always competed all that strongly. You look at the Mahoning Valley in Ohio, where - are we going to win all of those counties? Probably not. But if we can shrink the margin there because of the strong grassroots program, we feel like we have a very good chance to carry the state of Ohio.

INSKEEP: Mr. Seaton, we've just got a few seconds, but I want to put this question to you. Because there is so much concern among some voters about whether it will be a fair election, just tell me, do you feel like you're going to get a fair shake in the two states that you're in charge of for the McCain campaign, Ohio and Pennsylvania?

Mr. SEATON: Well, we certainly hope so. And look, it's always been our position that every legal vote should be counted. We should have transparency. And we certainly hope that this will be a fair and open election, and we're going to do everything that we can to ensure that our voters are protected.

INSKEEP: Jon Seaton is regional manager for the McCain campaign in the crucial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Mr. Seaton, thanks very much for taking the time today.

Mr. SEATON: Well, thank you very much for having me.

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