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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Strategists for the four Kadima leadership candidates said they will devote the final days before Wednesday's primary to reiterating the key messages of their campaigns and making sure that their supporters make it to polling stations.
"At the end of the campaign, there is little strategy beyond getting out the vote," said Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz's strategist, George Birnbaum. "You need to make sure you know who your voters are and that you can get them to the polls.
"The final message to the voters is what we have been saying all along: Who do you want in the prime minister's chair when tough decisions have to be made?"
Mofaz suffered a blow Thursday when news of the discovery of four-year-old Rose Pizem's body in the Yarkon River forced him to cancel a press conference he had called to respond to reports that Jerusalem's division was being negotiated.
He ended up releasing a statement instead, sharply criticizing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel's negotiating team with the Palestinians.
Livni's campaign assigned the ministers and MKs who support her to getting out the vote in different areas of the country.
Her strategist, Eyal Arad, said the campaign's message was that she was the only candidate who could beat Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu in a general election.
A Teleseker poll published in Ma'ariv found that Livni would bring Kadima eight more mandates than Mofaz.
According to the poll, if Livni was Kadima's leader, Netanyahu's Likud would win 29 seats, Kadima 25 and Ehud Barak's Labor 14. If Mofaz was Kadima's leader, the Likud would win 29, Labor 18 and Kadima 17.
Arad said he did not take seriously polls indicating that Livni could win by as much as 20 percent or a Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday that found the race was much closer than expected. That poll predicted that Livni would win 39.6% of the vote, Mofaz 35.3%, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter 8.1% and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit 6.8%.
The winning candidate must receive at least 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff next week against the second-place finisher.
According to the poll, in a head-to-head race, Livni would beat Mofaz by a close margin, 44.6% to 41.7%.
"In spite of the polls, this battle is not decided," Arad said. "It will be decided by the strength of our logistical and organizational effort to get the vote out on election day."
Dichter's strategist, Rafi Zarfati, said he would continue stressing that Dichter was more suitable than Livni and a better candidate than Mofaz.
Dichter held a rally on Saturday night in his hometown of Ashkelon to reinforce that message.
"In the last three or four days, it is critical to make as few mistakes as possible while enhancing our presence in the field," Zarfati said. "We are intensifying the pace of our meetings and constantly testing the response in the field. Eighty percent of the minister's spare time is devoted to meetings with key activists."
Sheetrit's strategist, Ilan Marciano, said he was focusing his efforts on undecided voters in places where Sheetrit was weakest, like the big cities.
"We think as much as 60% of the voters could be unaffiliated, either because they haven't decided whom to vote for or because they haven't been told whom to vote for by whoever signed them up to the party," Marciano said.
"The message to them remains: Don't gamble with the country's fate by putting it in inexperienced hands."
A study of focus groups taken by Keevoon Research, Strategy and Communications CEO Mitchell Barak for Channel 10 found that many Kadima members would like to vote for Sheetrit but won't because they don't believe he has a chance of winning the race.
In the focus groups, 97% of the people expressed a positive viewpoint of Livni, 84% of Sheetrit, 69% of Mofaz and 59% of Dichter, who was twice as likely to be thought of positively by Sephardim as by Ashkenazim.
The study also found that Kadima members are more concerned about social issues than corruption or threats from Iran, Arab countries or terrorism.