"We had to convince our activists," said Blaise Hazelwood, political director of the Republican National Committee. "We had to convince our party people that [winning] is not all TV, that we're going to have to spend more on these 72-hour activities."
Party and campaign workers have made van reservations to move voters and volunteers around in the final days and hours of the campaign, along with hotel reservations for out-of-state volunteers they plan to bus into critical precincts.
Hand-held computers have been purchased so canvassers daily can download voter data -- including information about their special interests and concerns -- into a central database.
Hazelwood said all these efforts required Republicans to change the way they approached campaigning.
"At the state level, they have ways they've always done things. They say things like, 'We don't knock on doors.' We had to reeducate them," she said.
By now, the Republican organization has surpassed the ground organizing that labor unions used to supply for Democrats, according to former RNC chairman Rich Bond.
"Republicans have refused to concede the ground game to the Democrats," Bond said. "The Republican Party under these guys is as well equipped as labor ever was."
Republican Party strategists are also trying to organize their outreach to voters in innovative ways, adding so-called peer precincts to traditional electoral precincts -- groups of supporters organized around a community group, hobby or other interest who act like a virtual neighborhood.
The party reports that is has signed up about 400,000 team leaders to organize friends and family for the Bush campaign. Some peer groups already on the Republican list include Catholics, Jews, stock-car racing fans and snowmobilers.
In addition to mobilizing existing voters, the campaign is working to expand the Republican base by registering new ones. It hopes to sign up 1 million new voters during a nationwide registration drive March 6-13, and another 2 million by election day.
One prime target is new citizens, especially Latinos. At citizenship ceremonies held across the country by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, GOP activists attend to hand out party registration forms.
"That's a big push," Hazelwood said. "When they become citizens, we want to be there to help them register Republican."
Most of this preparation is taking place below the public radar. But insiders say that if nothing else, the 2000 election proved that in the final analysis, elections are won on the ground, by small margins in individual districts.
"I look at everything state by state and district by district," Mehlman said.
Of course, all this planning is dependent upon how voters feel about the president in November -- and that is driven partly by events that cannot be controlled.
Bush's campaign began this election year with formidable political assets well beyond the record-breaking $132 million its fundraisers collected in 2003. The president has generally enjoyed public approval for his job performance since his inauguration, and with the economy slowly improving, Republican strategists say he is in stronger shape for reelection than any incumbent president since Richard M. Nixon.
"His standing is already as strong or stronger than any president running since 1971," Republican pollster Bill McInturff said.
"Consumer confidence, 'right direction' " -- the percentage of voters who believe the country's heading the right way -- "and the president's job approval are all up," he said. "That doesn't say that George W. Bush can't lose. It does say that it would be without precedent in the last 30 years."
A nonpartisan pollster, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center for the People and the press, agrees -- mostly. "Bush is in reasonably good shape, but he can't take it to the bank," Kohut said. "He can't take it to the bank because Iraq is still a problem, and because people aren't satisfied with the way things are going, especially on jobs."
A Gallup poll in mid-January found that 53% of respondents approved of the job Bush is doing, and 44% disapproved. But 46% said they were satisfied with the state of the country, and 53% said they were dissatisfied. Additionally, 37% said they considered the economy to be in good shape, and 63% said the economy was fair or poor.
GOP operatives acknowledge that bad news, whether on the economy, the budget or Iraq, could make Bush's reelection more difficult. Last week, for example, the White House had to contend with a blunt report that the president had been wrong about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, followed by an estimate that Bush's newly passed program to extend Medicare coverage to prescription drugs would be far more expensive than expected.
In a memo to supporters Thursday, the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Matthew Dowd, even warned that Bush is likely to fall behind in the polls as soon as the Democratic nomination is settled.