Mitt Romney's campaign is pretending Saturday is the day before Election Day.
In the first of a series of massive volunteer mobilization efforts, the campaign and the Republican Party will undertake "Super Saturday," a day when GOP volunteers call and canvass hundreds of thousands of swing-state voters, just as they will before Nov. 6.
The goal is not just to know which voters are on board with Romney, but to test the presidential campaign's ability to turn out the vote - something the GOP struggled with in 2008.
"It's a way for us to stress-test the network," said Rick Wiley, political director for the RNC, which is running the voter contact effort jointly with the Romney campaign.
The results will be tracked in real time through software applications that allow volunteers to enter information into their cellphones on the voter's doorstep. Information from phone calls is also recorded. A "dashboard" allows Wiley and campaign staff to monitor results as they happen.
"We learn a lot about what our volunteers are capable of doing. As we get into the fall, there's a ton of voters to cover," said Dave Kochel, Romney's Iowa consultant. "More than testing specific messages, we're testing the effectiveness of our organization."
The GOP will run these Saturday tests once a month. The information is used as the campaign progresses to guide decisions such as where to deploy volunteers, where to focus early-voting turnout efforts, and which areas have the most undecided voters.
In 2008, Republicans lacked funds for get-out-the-vote programs. "Our base wasn't as motivated to win that election as it should have been," Kochel said.
Two years ago, the GOP abandoned its traditional 72-hour final push to mobilize voters, which had deployed congressional staffers to battleground states. That was expensive, Wiley said, and "quite frankly some of those Hill staffers aren't the greatest" volunteers. Instead of making phone calls and knocking on doors, "they're wanting to sit there making strategic decisions." Now, Wiley said, the GOP is spending the money on voter contact over a longer period of time.
In 2008, Republicans made 28 million voter contacts, Wiley said. That jumped to 44 million in 2010, a number that he says this year's effort will exceed.
Republicans have a formidable opponent in the Obama campaign, which has reactivated its volunteer network from 2008, opened dozens of offices in swing states and is running full tilt on social media. The campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
"In Northern Virginia you cannot go out and not trip over an Obama GOTV effort, and that should scare the Republicans," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist.
The edge in voter mobilization goes back and forth between parties, said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University political scientist who studies voter turnout.
While Republicans discovered early the power of direct contact with voters - a door-knock has more persuasive power than a mailer - Democratic groups then developed a better voter database, he said.
Then again, the Democrats need a large and efficient voter contact program: their voters move more frequently than Republican voters do, McDonald said. "When they drop off the registration rolls they've got to be put back on somehow. The Democrats have more of a challenge facing them than the Republicans do," he said.