Business, labor rev up ground games

Business and labor are firing up their ground games for the final stretch of the 2012 campaign.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s most powerful business lobby, and labor groups like the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on Thursday took steps to mobilize their membership and get out of the vote for their preferred candidates. 

The success of those efforts — with most of the business support going to Republicans and the union aid to Democrats — could tip the scales in a number of tight races, from the White House down.

Labor unions are working to ensure that people aren’t turned away at the polls.

On Thursday, AFL-CIO officials told reporters they would have close to 300 union lawyers at polling sites and on call to prevent any voter suppression on Election Day.  

“Despite the efforts of some to thwart the vote, we are still encouraged because we have started early and are running our most aggressive voter protection program yet,” said Arlene Holt Baker, the AFL-CIO’s executive vice president.

AFL-CIO officials expressed concerns about polling sites running out of same-day voter registration forms, employers telling their workers how to vote and improper requests for identification. 

In battleground state Pennsylvania, the Republican-led legislature approved a tough voter ID law only to have parts of it blocked in court. The AFL-CIO plans to highlight the court’s decision with a direct mail and robocall campaign to 100,000 union members in the state. The mailers will inform union members that they do not need a photo ID to cast their ballot.

“There is still confusion in that state,” Holt Baker said. “We want union members know that they absolutely do not have to have voter ID to participate in this election.”

President Obama is leading Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, an important swing state with 20 electoral votes, by 5 points, according to RealClearPolitics’s poll average. The AFL-CIO has endorsed Obama for reelection.

Business groups, meanwhile, are trying to get their members fired up and ready to go to the polls.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday released a video featuring Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s president and CEO, exhorting the business community to vote.

“For many months, we have poured an unprecedented amount of our time, energy, and resources into the largest voter education and candidate endorsement program in the Chamber’s 100-year history,” Donohue said in a statement. “Now with November 6th almost upon us, the success of the Chamber’s efforts this cycle rest on one remaining essential ingredient — making sure that the business community and those who support and believe in American enterprise and economic freedom turn out to vote in this critical election.”

The get-out-the-vote video is being sent to more than 7 million of the Chamber’s supporters and will be available on VoteForJobs2012.com, the group’s voter website.

The Chamber is one of the biggest outside spenders of the 2012 campaign and has supported several Republican candidates for the House and the Senate this year. The business group has spent more than $27.2 million on independent expenditures and electioneering communications so far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Unions, meanwhile, are focused on their grassroots get-out-the-vote operation.

Senior SEIU officials will be in several battleground states this weekend to meet with staff and voters. The union said it is part of a massive grassroots campaign aiming to make one-on-one contact with 16 million voters by Election Day. 

SEIU officials will be in Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin this weekend for canvassing and rallies. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry will be in Las Vegas for a rally and an ice cream social, according to the union. 

On Friday, the AFL-CIO is also expected to announce new details about its election efforts and release a new poll of battleground states Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada. 

Holt Baker said unions are motivated for the campaign’s homestretch. 

“Labor is certainly fired up and ready to go for this election,” Holt Baker said. “We are doing what we do best, which is putting boots on the ground.” 

— This story was updated at 5:03 p.m.