DNC vs. RNC: A Structural Imbalance
A recent Washington Post article, however, really highlights the crux of that "how" question.
Here's the section from the article on the RNC:
The RNC runs a strategy known in political circles as the 72-hour program. It focuses on using phone calls, polling data and personal visits to identify would-be GOP voters and their top issues early in the cycle. The information is then fed into a database, allowing party leaders to flood them with pro-Republican messages through e-mail, regular mail and local volunteers. On Election Day, they receive a phone call or a visit to remind them to vote.
A GOP strategist involved in the effort said the RNC did a post-election review of every person it contacted, looking at how many times they were reached, which issues were discussed and whether they voted. This information was supplied to about 30 targeted states earlier this year, and RNC officials track the states to see whether they are reaching goals for adding new names and contacting old ones.
I'd quote a similarly concise section from the article on the DNC, but it doesn't exist. And that really embodies the difference between the two -- while the RNC is highly centralized and focused, the DNC appears all over the map.
To illustrate, the article talks about the schism that exists between the House leadership and the DNC in terms of election strategy for the midterms this fall. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi & Co. want to go for it all by focusing on key battleground states; DNC chairman Howard Dean, on the other hand, wants to use resources to establish roots in all 50 states for long-term viability.
Because of this strategic rift, some House Democrats are actually in the process of establishing a voter turnout campaign that's completely separate from the DNC. The movement is being headed by the Congressional Campaign Committee chairman for the Dems, Rep. Rham Emanuel from Illinois, who doesn't even speak to Dean anymore because of their differences on electoral strategy.
What also tells the story of how the DNC differs from the RNC is money. The RNC has 4 times as much cash in its coffers than the DNC, and that's not because there's a lack of wealthy donors on the left.
Rather than funneling all funding through the committee, as the RNC does, the Dems have a number of groups that work on grassroots organizing. All of those groups, in turn, siphon off donations that otherwise might go to the DNC.
There's a lot to be said for the term "grassroots," but it alone is not a viable political strategy. There still needs to be a centralized structure on top that works in close coordination with the grassroots efforts; otherwise, you're stuck with lots of cooks in the kitchen but no one to set the menu.
What's going in the Dems favor this year is a lack of electoral enthusiasm on the right and outright hostility toward GOP policies at the federal level nationwide. And there's no question the Dems will ride that wave this November -- it's just a lot easier and more effective when you have a boat.
Side-Note: I want to add quickly that I don't necessarily think the Dems have been ineffective at voter turnout campaigns in recent years -- it's just that the Repubs have been far more effective. And, at the federal level, the synonym for second place is last place.