AP's Nicholas Riccardi has an insightful story about the storied Democratic combined field campaign effort, swinging into action again this year as the polls in Colorado's marquee U.S Senate race look a lot like they did in 2010:
The relentless ground game to inspire voters to cast ballots has helped Democrats dominate Colorado under even the most difficult political circumstances. Four years ago, the strategy helped Sen. Michael Bennet’s come from behind to win re-election. Now Bennet is directing the Senate Democrats’ national campaign arm, testing whether a $60 million get-out-the-vote effort — named, “The Bannock Street Project,” for his old Denver campaign office — can do the same for Udall and other Democrats defending their Senate majority…
Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner has led Udall in recent public polls. Bennet didn’t lead in a single public poll in 2010. [Pols emphasis] Udall’s campaign is modeled on Bennet’s — but with a get-out-the-vote operation three times larger. The incumbent may also benefit from Colorado’s new elections law, passed last year by its Democratic-controlled legislature over Republican objections, that sends mail-in ballots to all voters and allows citizens to register until Election Day.
There’s no guarantee Democrats will dominate on the ground this year. Republicans in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation have upped their focus on getting out the vote. But GOP and conservative opponents know the ground game remains a potent Democratic weapon.
In 2012, the Republican coordinated campaign had serious problems with a new integrated field campaign system called "ORCA," which resulted in widespread breakdowns in their get-out-the-vote operation. We've heard that at least some of the lessons from that failure have been learned by the GOP in time for 2014, but the fact remains that Democratic field campaign efforts have done this successfully over and over in Colorado. Democrats have a degree of experience with getting out the vote in Colorado that the right simply has no analog for in recent elections.
One big variable this year is the impact of the 2013 election modernization legislation, House Bill 13-1303, which resulted in both mail ballots being delivered to every registered voter and the ability to register and vote through Election Day. Consistent with past elections, Republicans are leading the early mail ballot returns. Democratic ballots will come in as they're canvassed, and historically Democrats dominate early voting.
Just like in 2010, it's going to be very close. But Cory Gardner's steady three-point October lead in the U.S. Senate race, given 2010's experience, is nothing for Republicans to feel good about.