This is my first diary. I have always been a little too intimidated to post. Be gentle. I work in visual design, so these things called words don't flow too easily.
I actually wanted to post this in the beginning of the week, but the bright shiny object named Sarah Palin took hold, and I sidelined my diary. I slapped my face, woke up, and here I am, writing about canvassing for Barack Obama's Campaign for Change Office in Reno, Nevada over Labor Day Weekend. I will try to give you an idea of the types of voters we came across, with a couple sample stories from each area we canvassed in.
Follow me below the fold for a tale of first time canvassers.
I live in Oakland, CA, which is a fairly comfortable bubble politically. I mean, I have the awesome Barbara Lee as my congresswoman. My brother lives in Sparks, Nevada and so I rallied my husband (Skip) and two friends (Jeff + Tara) from SF to head to Nevada in order to help the campaign.
Saturday: Keystone Ave area + just east of UNR
Day 1: We headed to the Reno Obama HQ's, on Pueblo between Wells and Virginia. They immediately sent us into the field to canvass, after making sure we could say Nevada and that we knew the types of voters we were going to see. The 2nd amendment is important to the folks in Nevada as well as discussing Yucca Mountain. We have never canvassed and I was fairly shaky about it, but not for long. I was more afraid of slammed doors, then anything else.
Our first area was a middle income area off of Keystone, on a hill overlooking Reno. It was 100 degrees out (more on that later), so we slathered on SPF 70 on our pale selves and headed off.
Voter 1 // Male, late 50s, registered Independent: This was our first house, and a discouraging start. "You got the wrong house, dude" and shut the door, as soon as we mentioned Obama's name.
Voter 2 // Male, mid 40's, registered Republican: Walked up to a latino man with his son, working on their motor-cross bike. He didn't know either of the candidates platforms and didn't know who he was voting for. I asked if he had heard about Barack's tax plan yet and gave a quick gloss over it. He nodded and said, "yes, he was definitely leaning Obama" and I gave him some literature. He thanked us and this highlights the beauty of canvassing: FACE TIME. Do you think the McCain campaign is sending people out door to door, smiling, and asking about the households?
Voter 3 // Female, early 70's, registered Non-Partisan: We were actually knocking on this house for her daughter, who was not home. This lovely lady saw my overly-Obama-shwagged-out visage, and smiled. "OBAMA!!". she didn't speak English but I made sure she was registered. The entire house was for Obama.
Voter 4 // Female, late 30's, registered Independent: Saw us and smiled. "Oh good!", I thought. Wrong. She told us that her and her husband were definitely NOT voting for Obama. I smiled and said, "Ok, so if you do have a preference of the other candidates, which would it be? Barr...?". (an aside: I mentioned Barr first in all of my non-Obama conversations). She said, "We don't like either McCain or Obama". She seemed fairly depressed by her choices. Told us good luck and that was that. This was also about the time the sun started getting to us. Coincidence?
The best thing about Keystone was running into David Bobzien, who is running for State Assembly 24. He had just returned from Denver and was still reeling from how amazing the convention was. Gave us tips about the types of voters we would run into and wanted us to check out his flickr set of Denver.
After dousing out the flames on bodies, we received our second packet of voters, this time in a lower income area just east of UNR. Since it was Saturday, lots of people were not home or maybe they were sitting in their bathtubs filled with ice and hiding from the sun. But the people on the street who saw our Obama shirts/buttons/hats/bags, pretty much smiled and gave us thumbs up.
Voter 1 // Male, mid-30's, registered Independent: This house was having a party. we knocked on the door and a nice latino man opened up. Before we can say too much, he said "Entire house for Obama. Definitely". Asked if he needed registration forms. He took one.
Voter 2 // Female, late 40's. registered non-p[artisan: One of the many Spanish-speaking houses we hit. I was kicking myself for not being able to speak Spanish. I tried my best to walk her through voting day and important dates (my Spanish is limited to days, dates and drinks) and handed her a stack of pamphlets, and noted that she was SP-only for someone to return and talk with her. She smiled at the name Obama.
Voter 3 // Male, early 60's, registered non-partisan: This was a low-info African American voter. He shrugged on both candidates. I asked if he had any questions, and he asked if i had any literature about Obama. I wanted to speak more to him, but he just wanted to be left alone to stay cool.
At about 5pm, I hit a wall, and lost my battle with the 100 degree heat and got violently sick. End of day one. About 60-70 doors knocked.
Sunday: Sun valley. 50+ doors knocked
Woke up to 80 degree weather, hurray! And what a day this was. Sun Valley is a lower income area just north of Reno, with about 10% below the poverty line. It was a windy, dry, dirty day, which was fine by me as long as it was not 100 out. The area we hit was a large area of mobile homes, spread out under the sky. I had my doubts, since day one was a day spent facing unopened doors and some skepticism. But I was happily wrong.
Voter 1 // Female, late 60's, Independent: This was a nice mobile home, with ceramic bears greeting us and a large American flag proudly waving. Lovely woman answered the door and as soon as she saw is she said, "Yes, definitely Obama, are you kidding me?". And then she started crying. She was in an accident about a month ago, showing her huge bruises everywhere, and has to give up her home to pay for her medical bills. Of course, I started crying, and she asked that universal health care be priority number one. Heartbreaking.
Voter 2 // Female, early 60's, Independent: "this whole house is Obama. But stay away from the guy next door; he has lost it and is crazy."
Voter 3 // Male, early 60's, Independent: "I don't like either. Can't stand either. Not voting. HATE McCain. But good luck to Obama, even though he lacks experience".
Voter 4 // Male, late 60's, Libertarian: Walked up to this mobile home. Support the Troops stickers everywhere, Support the Vets stickers, and Navy flag flying above. Older man answered and he said, "I am voting and I am voting for Obama" and shook my hand. That one made me pleased as punch, since my dad is a Navy vet.
Voter 5 // Male, early 50's, Independent: "I am definitely not voting for Obama". So I asked, "Do you have a preference of the other candidates. He replied, "The lesser of the evils". He was happy that we weren't there to "Sell Obama" and relaxed a bit and we said, "We are just working our heart out for Obama. Have a lovely weekend" and smiled. (the key is to smile with some confidence.)
Voter 6 // Male, late 50's, non-partisan: Walked through a crazy landscape of plants, statues, vines hanging everywhere and a yellow sign saying "Watch out for Wino's". Nice man answers with a "I am voting and I am proudly voting Obama.". Thanks, nice man! I like wine too.
Lots of Obama supporters, lots of characters. We loved Sun Valley. And of the non-Obama supporters, not a single one said "I am voting for McCain." Not a one. They never mentioned his name. They either said, "I am voting Republican" or "I am unhappy with my choices" or "I kinda like that Bob Barr fella". But no one said "I am voting for John McCain". Amazing.
+ Still a lot of undecided voters. Sarah Palin was never mentioned positively. People just had no idea who she was and what experience she had. One man even said, "The population of the four high schools in Sparks Nevada is larger then the town of Wasilla."
+ Spanish speaking volunteers are needed
+ The first couple weeks of October are dedicated to the final registration push, then after Oct 14, it's all about GOTV.
+ Nevada has a very independent streak. The 2nd amendment is important to a lot of voters, so discussing Obama's stance on upholding the Constitution is key.
+ Smile. Then engage. Be as unscripted as possible.
+ SPF 70 + a hat + a bottle of water every hour.
+ Face time is so important. Some of the people you meet sometimes never have human contact for a day or two, so you leave an impression just by being there. Especially in 100 degree heat.
+ If you are coming from out of state, the offices will find a place for you to crash if needed. Also, learn the state facts and how voters lean.
+ Watch out for the ridiculously sweet drinks at the Peppermill.
Rant to John McCain: Your selection of such an unqualified VP candidate is both offensive to me, to the Vice-Presidency, and to millions of Americans. It has angered me so much. I will channel that anger constructively by working my heart out to make sure Sarah Palin stays in Alaska.
Links and Info:
NEVADA CAMPAIGN FOR CHANGE
141 E. PUEBLO ST
775 322 0935
Brief Photographic Evidence
Meet Olivia (me)
Some Sun Valley shots
RENObama, we love you!
UPDATE: Rec list? THANKS KOSSACKS! I am blushing. Thank you!