Monday, February 25, 2008

Knocking On Doors In Ohio

This past weekend I celebrated my 30th birthday by driving to Ohio and canvassing for the Barack Obama campaign.  Since I live in Nashville, Tennessee, the Cincinnati area was the most accessible to me.  Canvassing was just starting up there and my wife and I signed up for events in the suburbs of Milford and West Chester.  These areas are very hostile for any Democratic candidate; both counties (Clermont and Butler) voted 2-to-1 for President Bush in 2004.

The atmosphere indicated by the past election results was confirmed by many of our fellow volunteers.  Amy, the organizer of the canvassing event in Milford, told us that many people in her neighborhood just check the name with the "R" next to it without knowing anything about the candidates.  Still, Amy told us that she had success convincing a number of her co-workers to register and vote for Senator Obama.  We also had some success in our canvassing.  While fellow Democrats were few and far between, most were receptive to hearing about Senator Obama; and some had already decided to vote for him.  We also found a number of Republicans who were interested in learning more about the Senator and who were glad to learn that they could get a Democratic ballot for the primary.

Not everyone in the area is open to hearing a Democratic message.  While most of the Republicans we encountered were polite before telling us they weren't interested, a few were quite gruff and one made a couple sarcastic taunts before slamming his door in my face.  This was to be expected considering that I had knocked on over 100 doors.  A worse indicator, however, came during dinner when my wife and I overheard a conversation where a table of Republicans enthusiastically anticipated the swift-boating of Senator Obama.  One of the participants declared that she had early-voted for Senator Clinton because she felt she would be easier to beat in November, while another used racial epithets to describe Senator Obama.  This just shows that no matter how high-minded a conversation we try to have during the campaign, some people just don't want to work together.

Despite these difficulties, outreach efforts in red areas are very important for the Obama campaign.  The margin of victory in the popular vote in the general election will have more significance for Senator Obama than any other of the remaining candidates.  In order to implement the far-reaching changes he has proposed in Washington, he will need as big a mandate as possible.  This means that Obama supporters are going to have to find votes in enemy territory, like Cincinnati.    Based on the efforts of the volunteers I witnessed this weekend, I am confident that they will reduce that 2-to-1 Republican advantage by November.

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