( – promoted by Clark)

(Also posted on Daily Kos)

Much has been made of the Obama-Biden strategy of being competitive in states that Republicans carried in recent presidential elections.  Missouri is very much in this mix and unlike 2004, when the Kerry-Edwards campaign pulled out of Missouri in the weeks leading up to the election, the Obama-Biden campaign has expanded their tremendous presence in the state.  According to David Plouffe, winning Missouri has always been an important part of the overall strategy to reach 270 electoral votes, and in typical fashion, the campaign has spared no effort in winning.  The efforts are paying off, also, since Obama, once trailing in this state by 5 points or so, is now 2 points ahead on the Pollster.com composite, and has a nice upward-going trendline!

But winning doesn’t mean we’ve won.  Barack himself is telling us to “run through the tape.”  Since September, I’ve been doing my part to make it so.  Here’s what it looks like in my part of Missouri: University City, just west of the city of St. Louis.

The University City Obama office

So what got me off my rear end to work for the Obama campaign?  Two things did.  One, I, along with almost all of us here, was unhappy with the late August poll numbers, especially coming out of the RNC.  Second, and the most important reason, is that DNC Chairman Howard Dean asked us to. Dr. Dean had visited St. Louis as part of the Register for Change tour (diaried here) and during his speech he told us that the race for Missouri would be extremely tight, with probably only a 2-point margin for victory for whoever won the state.  He implored us all to do what we could for the Obama campaign, even if it meant taking time away from our families and loved ones.  Thankfully, many took hom at his word, if the University City office was any indication:

The University City Obama office in September.  Lots going on here, with canvassers getting their walk packets, phonebankers making calls, visitors buying campaign materials.  Of the St. Louis area offices I visited, this one was the busiest,and the one quickest to put me to work!

I’m a canvasser.  I’ve done it for MoveOn in 2004, in Florida, and the 2006 Claire McCaskill campaign.  For me, I definitely do better when I can talk to voters face to face–plus I like being outside and getting the exercise!  Dr. Dean told us in the speech I saw that the personal contact between us and the voters made the most difference in driving support to our candidates and causes.  Thus, while phonebanking is important–that’s how possible supporters are identified, and helps to generate the walk sheets the canvassers use–it is the canvassers that close the sale.  I always relished the challenge of it in past campaigns.

Jana, a Neighborhood Team Leader (in the white pants), briefs a group of volunteer canvassers on the day’s objective.  Our group that day included two foreign students studying at Washington University–they couldn’t vote in our election, but came out to help anyway!

This gentleman, in front of the Obama painting, came out from California to help us.  I’ve since run into a couple of other Californians who took time off and came out to help us in University City.

Jana, my usual canvassing contact, always started us off by going around the group to tell everyone whey we were supporting Barack Obama. After that, she usually gave a full briefing on what our objectives were for that day’s canvass.  In typical Obama campaign fashion the canvassers were always provided with all the forms, talking points, and literature needed to go with the walk sheets and maps–and we always left knowing what the objective was that day, be it voter registration, voter persuasion, or GOTV.  

I know a lot of people find knocking on doors to be difficult.  In my experience people were usually much more receptive to a stranger at the door than a stranger on the phone (those phonebankers doing the cold calls?  God bless ’em.  I couldn’t do that with any skill even if you paid me!).  Sometimes I found McCain supporters, but in all cases but one, they were polite (the rude one just slammed the door in my face after saying, “I’m not talking to you”).  A few were wary of the stranger at the door, even when I put on my best smile and exam-room manner (my day job is practicing veterinary medicine).  But I have to say, of the campaigns I’ve worked, I’ve never experienced the reception I often got when I came to the door.  So many greeted me with a smile, often a handshake, and even a “God bless you” for the work I was doing.  Those doors would put an extra spring in my step, and make me want to work that much harder to get my walk packet done!

In case you’re worried about people letting up with the good poll numbers:  At my office at least, I can tell you that the last weekend I came in for my 1 PM shift, I found out that all of the walk packets for the shift had already been given out!  A staffer actually had to drive over to one of our forward offices (a staging location for Election Day) and got the three of us canvassers that were waiting for packets what we needed.  We’ve had good turnout every weekend I’ve canvassed, but this was the first weekend they actually ran out of packets at shift time!

If you haven’t canvassed, NOW is the time to get your feet wet!  This weekend there will be an all-out push to get our voters to the polls on November 4th.  Missouri does not have early voting, and even in the jurisdictions that do, the early voting period has passed.  There won’t be any persuasion needed, just a simple question: “are you voting for Barack Obama this Election Day?”  If you’re still a bit worried, talk to someone in your local Obama office.  They will, most likely, pair you with an experienced canvasser to help show you the ropes.  It’s not hard to learn what to do–You can do it!  Those first few doors are always the hardest ones, even for an experienced canvasser like me; after that it gets a lot easier.

Here we are filling out our canvass reports.  My partner this day was Catherine, a Canadian college student, who mastered the fine art of canvassing very quickly!

Smile!  We’re canvassing for the winning team!

The need for GOTV cannot be overstated; even with Obama up in the polls it means nothing without actual votes.  If you live in or near a swing state, call or visit your local Obama office today, and see where they can use you.  Make plans to travel to a swing state, if you possibly can.  Missouri does not have early voting, and the campaign has us organized for the big day with one goal in mind: to get our voters to the polls, and make sure they can cast their ballots.  We need an all-hands evolution to bring home the win, in Missouri and elsewhere!

Just in case you need a bit more inspiration:

Everybody, say hello to Marvin!  

I was back at the office filling out my latest canvass report when I heard one of the other volunteers talking to this gentleman.  Marvin had been making phone calls, and told the other volunteer, between calls, that the first campaign he had ever worked was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaign of 1936, and that he has worked every Democratic campaign since then!  Think about that for a minute.  The same year John McCain was born, a young Marvin was out knocking doors for FDR.  I had to introduce myself to Marvin at that point, and shake his hand.  To say I was awed would be an understatement!

Marvin told me he had done it all–canvasser, precinct captain, phonebanker–and that he was phonebanking only because he couldn’t get out and walk the long distances anymore.  He didn’t tell me his age, but since he served in World War II, I’m guessing he’s in his late 80s or early 90s.  

He’s just one more reason I got up and went to work for the campaign!

In short, canvassing is not difficult, and that face-to-face contact can make all the difference in the world between the voters turning out and staying home.  You’ll be talking to supporters, and I guarantee you will get some love from them, for doing the work we’re doing.

So let’s win this thing, for Marvin, and for all of us!  Get those walking shoes on and take the streets this weekend!