Friday, October 5, 2012

Putting the O in Virginia

I took the Obait and volunteered to work the phones for Obama last weekend. The volunteer told me to report to a preschool in downtown Bethesda.  I was offered my choice of rooms where I would set up my station. Winding through a maze of rooms filled with cots and puzzles and paints and easels, it was odd to see dedicated Democrats sitting in rocking chairs or stationed at tables that had recently been home to finger painting projects.

The concept of the Phone Bank has changed in the past four years. There are no banks of phones, instead the campaign organizers bank on the volunteer bringing his or her own cell phone. I was given three pages of names of people in rural Virginia. Maryland is so blue there is no sense in us bothering our own people, but just across the Potomac River it's a different story.

We were told to call and ask the person three questions--could we could count on their vote for President Obama; did they also plan to support Kaine for Senator; and would they like to volunteer for the campaign. We were provided a set of talking points if we needed to bring around one of the undecided.

It's not that easy to get someone on the phone these days. First of all, they all have voice mail and they all have caller ID. I am sure just the sight of my DC area code was enough to stop many of them from answering the phone. Out of roughly 150 calls, I talked to six people. The first man was a quick yes, yes, yes to all three questions. Then I got a yes, yes, no. I got a couple of people who were either partners or spouses, who after hearing I was calling from Obama headquarters said that their spouse/partner didn't want to come to the phone "but we're basically supportive and all that." They don't count, the Campaign Coordinator said, I have to report that I did not reach the voter, because the surrogate might "be trying to avoid confrontation." I got one abrupt hang up. I only got one person who really wanted to talk, she said it is hard for her this year because she just turned 60 and she has a lot of concerns about the economy, but she will vote for Obama because she "simply cannot abide" his opponent. As for Kaine, well she wasn't so sure. And no, she didn't want to volunteer.  She sounded tired.

I got pretty tired too after doing this for an hour. But I said I would come back again this weekend. It will be interesting to see what the debate has wrought.