Could we have blamed the relentless phone bank callers, as Pete (Comment 1, #4) suggested? That is, could potential Brown voters have been turned off from voting by the blitz of calls, live and robo? As a sometime phone banker myself, I could see this happening. When I brought my concerns to the phone bank boss, she maintained there were political science studies supporting the over-the-top calling strategy. I've found some support for that viewpoint, but I have also come up with some research suggesting that Pete may be right.
Here is one study by a Princeton prof, arguing that phoning increases turnout. He goes after these profs, below, who claim it decreases turnout (sorry, no links):
Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green. 2000. "The Effects of Canvassing, Telephone Calls, and Direct Mail on Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment." American Political Science Review
Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green. 2001. "Do Phone Calls Increase Voter Turnout? A Field Experiment." Public Opinion Quarterly
Had enough? The quality argument appeals to me. I've gotten fewer nasty responses than my colleagues by beginning my call with "Thank you for voting today..." I guess all I need to do now is to reproduce this result, so I'll have data instead of an anecdote and publish it in a big-time poly sci journal. I prefer door-to-door campaigning, meeting real voters and chatting with them. Ultimately, though, it comes down to the quality of the candidate or issue. That is the element these putatively scientific studies need to control for, and I don't think the rules of science allow them to factor that in.
Political campaigns waste a lot of their budgets. Like the welfare state, these hired guns throw money at a problem to solve it. Yet they also send ill-informed doorbellers out with inaccurate street maps and bad voting records.
UPDATE: Classy Brown remarks.