Here in State College, things are progressing very well with the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts for Barack Obama. Chloe, Hannah, Nanny Janny, Val and I went to the Obama office in State College today to canvass for them and we were told that all the canvassing packets had already gone out, and this was at 1:30pm! The office was packed with volunteers, including many young people who have come from out of state for the next few days.
They told us that the Bellefonte office needed some help, so Nanny Janny, Chloe, Hannah and I headed to Bellefonte to do some canvassing. They sent us out to Pleasant Gap, PA and again, I was impressed by the level of organization involved.
The packet I had included about 25 houses nestled into the gap that passed over Nittany mountain. The doors I knocked on were largely of lower-income white voters who, for the most part, were supporting Obama. My job was to ask if they knew where to vote and if they needed a ride to the polls. Although I encountered two households who were not supportive, the majority of people I talked to were planning to vote for Obama for reasons ranging from the profound to the endearing. When I asked one voter if he supported Obama, he told me that he supported the idea that the troops should be out of Iraq and so he would be voting for Obama. Another voter told me that he though Obama was “pretty cool” and that, although he didn’t really follow politics, he was going to vote for Obama because he sponsored a concert at Penn State with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. I made sure he knew where his polling place was an happily moved on to the next house.
Today’s Washington Post is highlighting a story with the headline “True Believers In McCain Flock to Pa.” The dateline says State College, Pa and the story highlights a man who drove from South Carolina to State College in his trailer, set up camp in a local Walmart parking lot (is that legal?), and starting going door to door. He is trying to do 25 houses a hour for ten hours a day through Tuesday.
What strikes me about this story is the way it highlights the radical difference between the McCain and Obama campaigns. McCain has decided that winning PA is the only way he can possibly map a road through the electoral map to the White House. However, inundating the state with free roaming door knocker set up in the parking lot at Walmart does not strike me as a very effective campaign strategy. It calls to mind the seat-of-the-pants, winging it decision making process the McCain campaign has embodied from the start, having perfected it with the choice of Palin and the suspension of the campaign to muck around in the economic rescue process.
In striking contrast to this, the Obama campaign has a very well thought out and methodological approach to GOTV efforts. They have thousands of people coming from out of state too, but they are put up in people’s houses, fed by local volunteers and given access to resources that will allow them to make extremely effective use of their time while they are here. The campaign has a very clear idea of what it wants done each day.
Today and tomorrow, we are to contact likely voters and ensure they know where to vote and find out if they need a ride to the polling place. Monday, canvassers will be hanging thousands of door nob notices on the doors of targeted voters indicating where the polling places are and reminding people to vote. On election day, each house will be visited twice to make sure each supporter has in fact voted. This is a potentially very powerful method and will be looked upon as a model if it works.
The current Real Clear Politics polling average for PA has Obama ahead by 7.5 points, but I am not sure any of these polls are able to factor in what will happen to an electorate when the Democratic candidate has such a powerful GOTV program. My hope is that this will be decisive and that Obama will win PA and the election going away.