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Conservative and Tea Party Rallies and Trainings Dominate the Capital: Are Progressives and Liberal Democrats About to Be Out-Organized?

Conservative protests in Washington show the breadth of energy and money marshaled to organize the right-wing base, while progressives lag behind.

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Such lessons were hardly lost on Ralph Reed, who offered a very nuts-and-bolts voter-turnout seminar in a break-out session at his conference. The Faith and Freedom Coalition has built a feature into its Web site called VoterTrak, through which, according to Reed, FFC members will be able to contact voters in key areas via their smart phones, laptops and iPads, and talk to them "with a simple script that we will provide you."

Reed promised to make an average of seven contact efforts to each voter identified through his organization's data-mining efforts as likely constituent for his candidates. "And when you contact these voters repeatedly, they will turn out," he says. It's all about "moving he needle," he said.

Reed explained that polls are based on past turnout models; the way to beat the polls, he said, is to increase the turnout of your base -- something he is known for doing with great efficacy.

"I will give Obama and his political team the credit they're due for having done that in 2008," Reed told his foot-soldiers. "They moved the needle of liberal voters, of minority voters, and of voters between the age of 18-29. Those were the key votes that they targeted."

As an example, he cited the increased turnout of African-American voters during the Obama campaign, raising the turnout number from the typical 10 percent of the electorate to 14 percent. In this fall's midterm elections, Reed said, the Faith and Freedom Coalition will target four categories of voters: "faith-based voters -- primarily evangelicals and Catholics -- small businessmen and -women, hunters and sportsmen, and Tea Party-type voters."

"I assure you that if we target those four categories of voters, we'll move the needle," Reed said.

He also cited a victory he claimed as his own: the 2002 election of Sonny Perdue as Georgia's first Republican governor since Reconstruction in a race where Perdue trailed behind his opponent 13 percent in the polls on the Saturday before the Tuesday election. The pollsters, Reed explained, weren't aware of what he, then chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, and his activists were up to, and were working from past turnout models.

Reed predicted that at least seven House races will be decided by margins of 5,000 or so votes. He also told his foot-soldiers that Faith and Freedom Coalition's organizing efforts aren't limited to the congressional elections; they've targeted gubernatorial and key races in state legislatures as well, since it will be the makeup of those state bodies that determines congressional redistricting. He all but smacked his lips at the specter of President Obama having to veto a repeal of his health care reform "two or three times."

Like FFC, FreedomWorks, through its Take America Back political Web site, will also offer a Web-based call center through which members will be able to talk to voters eligible to participate in the 18 House races and nine Senate races the organization is targeting.

The Right, it seems, has learned the lessons of the Obama campaign, even if the Left has not. Liberals and progressives tend to believe that once they have won something -- the presidency, the Congress -- that they have won it. But the Right never concedes defeat.

A Call to Arms

On the terrace at FreedomWorks, the libertarian-minded bloggers drank and smoked with abandon, joyously debating the fiscal necessity versus the "moral hazard" of the bank bailout, or whether Sarah Palin's endorsement of Christine O'Donnell in the GOP primary would yield a candidate who could win in the general election. A blogger named Nadia from Tampa strolled by, a fat stogie in her hand. "Tastes like a Cuban," she said.