Last night our small group working four precincts in suburban Detroit did some phone banking. We were calling registered female voters, asking them if they were supporting Obama, McCain, or a third party candidate. If they were supporting or leaning Obama, we asked them what if any issues they were concerned with and whether or not they were interested in volunteering for the campaign.
I made dozens of calls last night and got a quick snapshot of the state of the campaign in southeast Michigan. More below the fold....
A surprisingly large percentage of the phone numbers I called were disconnected. It was surprising to me because I've had the same phone for the last 8-1/2 years and only got a new one then because I moved into my home from another city. With Michigan's economy as down in the dumps as it is, I'm assuming that some of those disconnections were because of moves due to foreclosure or job loss and/or new employement elsewhere. A couple of disconnections were identified in the recording as temporary, meaning that the homeowner didn't pay her bill.
Right off the bat I got a McCain supporter. What was disappointing to me was that she was an African American (I am, too) and she stated her support for McCain almost defiantly as if she expected me to answer with the same "wtf?" that she ususally got. Of course I was thinking, "you've gotta be kidding me", but I would never say something like that while volunteering for the campaign. I just wished her a good evening, and thanked her for her time. Disarmed, she stumbled over her thanks to me and hung up.
A few calls later, I spoke to a woman whose name and accent marked her a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe. She seemed thrilled that I'd called her. When I asked her if we could count on her support for Senator Obama in November, she almost shouted, "YES!". Then she laughed self-consciously at her own enthusiasm. I picked up the energy in my voice to match hers because one, I was feeling excited to find her after all the disconnects and voicemails and two, I wanted to make sure she knew she was in like company. She told me this was her first time voting as a new citizen and she couldn't wait. She was passionate about her hopes that Obama would address the economic issues we're facing and wanted us out of Iraq. When I asked her if she could volunteer however, she turned shy on me.
"Oh, I don't know if I can do something like that," she said in her heavy accent. "It's too soon."
"Too soon?" I asked.
"This is my first time ever voting..." her voice trailed off. Then she asked me hesitantly, "What kind of things do you do?"
I knew I had her then. By the time I hung up, I'd marked her down as a potential volunteer, but one who'd need some mentoring.
A few calls later I got another hit. A woman who happily reported her support of Obama and then advised me, "but don't tell my husband!". We laughed and I moved on to the next name in the list.
Another woman I called wasn't home but her husband was happy to tell me that they are a strong Democratic household and there's no way they won't go out and vote for Obama in November.
I ran into one woman who was leaning for Obama, so I asked her what it would take to clinch the deal. "I don't know," she began. Then, "I just wish he'd say something really strong about the ecomony and the automotive industry". Boy, was I happy to have called her because I had just attended Obama's town hall meeting in suburban Detroit two nights before and the Senator made several strong statements about supporting the manufacturing base in all of the midwest. I was able to tell her about it firsthand and direct her to videos of the meeting on his youtube channel.
All in all, the few McCain supporters I encountered were polite but firm in their support. The many Obama supporters I called were delighted to hear from the campaign and to have the chance to state their support for our candidate. Most of the undecideds said they were waiting for the debates and when one woman quietly said, "I'm intrigued by Sarah Palin", I told her that I could understand that since few had ever heard of Palin before a week ago. Then I advised her to find out all she could about this woman who would be a 72-year old heartbeat away from the Oval Office. I told her not to forget that McCain was the one running for President and to decide what issues mattered to her in this election. She could then check out both Obama's and McCain's websites to see which candidate's solution was closest to her own approach to those issues, or if they had a solution at all.
So there it was - a night of phone banking. Not rocket science, but more productive than sitting at home wringing my hands over polls and lipstick on pigs. Today is 9-11, so there's no campaigning. But tomorrow is another chance to move the ground game a little further in our direction. Get out there, Kossacks!