Karl Rove used to assert that the Republican GOTV operation was worth at least a couple of extra percentage points on election day. Yeah, well, that was then. This is now. And Republican woes this year are about to get worse: the DNC has come up with a tool that will improve Democratic canvassing in federal races. Consider that in Ohio in 2006 Dems did fine at organizing in the major metro areas, but in smaller cities of 10,000-50,000, Republicans cleaned our clock. This year, that’s going to change.

The organizing tool is a website that will be up for inspection by Democratic activists in another four to six weeks. The final version for actual use will be ready sometime this spring. What this website allows activists to do is log in and receive the names of 25 homeowners–within a few blocks of their own home–that the party wants contacted. The website will offer a video that trains activists about what to say when they knock on people’s doors and what questions to ask. The video will have a scene demonstrating what to do. Just having a training video available to any activist anywhere will, people at the DNC expect, develop canvassing skills well beyond what’s been possible before.

The beauty of the website for people in smaller cities is how accessible the training is: no more driving an hour or two to a metro area for that. What’s more, since they’ll be canvassing their own neighborhoods, they can do it a little bit at a time. If you’re knocking doors within a thousand feet of your house, you can do three at a time, say, instead of wearing yourself to a nubbin doing a big chunk all at once.

And the beauty of the website, as far as the DNC is concerned, is … well, there are several.

Once volunteers see their neighborhood on the screen, laid out in Mapquest form, they generally know some information that the DNC didn’t know. Perhaps they’ve seen yard signs that indicate a particular family’s political leanings, or maybe they know that a certain family moved. That kind of information–by eliminating some homes from the targeted list–saves the DNC money on mailings.

This program also makes it practical to stay in touch with people who requested mail-in ballots (the DNC has access to those records). Since such people don’t always remember to mail ballots in on time, it’s not that hard for a volunteer to stop by and remind folks that the deadline is at hand–something that can’t necessarily be done by phone in this day and age when people check the caller i.d. and decide not to answer. And while the volunteer is reminding a voter about that deadline, they’re forming, to some degree, an acquaintance–and personal connection is so valuable.

Another advantage of the program is that it lets volunteers insert their own name into the message they’ll print out at their computer to hand out at the door. Unions have discovered that when that kind of ownership is part of a campaign, the work rate goes up by five times.

Last but not least, this program will provide up to the minute records of what’s been done. A volunteer can log on anytime and learn how many doors have been knocked in his larger area. It will rank the sub-areas and even show how the ranking will change if a person knocks on, yea so many doors.

Rewards will be offered for certain levels of achievement, like bumper stickers or the chance to take part in a teleconference call with the party’s pollsters. That’s why the volunteers will like the up-to-date info. Field organizers will love it because they’ll know who’s getting what done. They can see that such-and-so has talked to ten people this week, while this other guy has done zilch in the last month.

And the organizers will get more volunteers this way–good not only because it saves paying for canvassers but because the quality of the information will be better. Homeowners are much more likely to share their information with a neighbor than with a stranger they’ll never see again.

The DNC has not yet figured out how to make this program available for canvassers in state and local elections, but if you plan to work for the Democrat in any of the nine Congressional districts in Missouri, this tool will be available.

Maybe this website will help Kay Barnes ease past Sam Graves or tip the scales that send Todd Akin into retirement.

Hey, Karl? Up yours.