Will Bannock Street Project Work on Bannock Street?

Democrats in close Senate races everywhere are counting on the DSCC’s Bannock Street Project–an expensively endowed voter targeting and GOTV operation named for the location of the 2010 campaign HQ of DSCC chairman Michael Bennet, who beat the polls and won.

But as TPM’s Dylan Scott notes today, the acid test for the Bannock Street Project is likely to be Bannock Street–i.e., Colorado–itself, if current trends persist and Sen. Mark Udall goes into Election Day trailing Cory Gardner in the polls. It’s clear Udall’s campaign is assuming the same dynamics apply:

The Bennet influences on Udall’s campaign (and 2014 Democratic Senate campaigns in general) are everywhere. It starts with the national committee and works down to the campaign staff. [Paul] Dunn and DSCC executive director Guy Cecil were top operatives for Bennet 2010. Udall campaign manager Adam Dunstone was a deputy for Bennet’s team.

The messaging in Colorado has been relentless. About half of Udall’s TV ads have been focused on women’s issues, according to the Washington Post. Back in 2010, Bennet ran an ad with a local OB/GYN warning about Buck’s extremism on women’s health, and now Udall’s campaign is going up with an ad this week featuring a local OB/GYN warning about Gardner’s opposition to abortion, part of its final push to flood the Colorado airwaves before Election Day. The Udall campaign and the outside groups supporting him have released numerous Spanish-language ads, too.

“That strategy worked pretty well and it’s really the same one that Democrats are now hoping to use against Cory Gardner,” Peter Hanson, who studies Colorado politics at the University of Denver, told TPM. “If Udall can get liberal-leaning women to turn out in larger numbers by raising fears that Cory Gardner just doesn’t get it, he’s much more likely to win the race … It’s a lesson that the Democrats learned four years ago.”

I’d say the Latino vote is a pretty big deal, too. There’s already evidence that polls showing Gardner with a persistent lead may be missing the size and/or shape of the Latino vote.

Scott’s report focuses on Gardner’s efforts to immunize himself from “war on women” attack ads being deployed heavily by Team Udall. If he wins, that will likely be the “story.” But it’s worth remembering that something big is going on in the state separate from anything happening in this or that campaign: Colorado’s move to an all-mail-ballot system.

Colorado’s been a heavy voting-by-mail state recently, with over 70% voting by mail in 2012. But in other states (OR and WA) that have gone to an all-mail system, turnout went up sharply, and particularly in midterms. All other things being equal, high turnout is good for Democrats. But the immediate point to absorb is that the “persuasion” part of the CO campaign is nearly over, with voting already underway and more-or-less ending a few days before November 4, when ballots must be received (not postmarked, as is the case in WA). It’s all about getting ballots from the right people into the mail ASAP, and that’s where Bannock Street should excel.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.