A couple of weeks ago KGardner posted an inspiring diary entitled "Obama's Ground Game Will Make 2008 Look Like Jurassic Park" - Here's Your Ground Game describing how motivated Democrats from Knoxville, Tennessee, were spending their weekdays calling voters in North Carolina, and their weekends crossing the border into North Carolina:
Every weekend, cars full of volunteers drive over the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee into our neighboring state. Last weekend, over 70 went. Obama supporters in North Carolina gladly open their hearts and their homes. The volunteers start walking, door-to-door, talking to people about our President – gathering more volunteers, registering people to vote. The net widens exponentially every single day. And remember, this has been going on, quietly, since last summer.After all, Tennessee is a red state and according to Nate Silver there is a 99.8% chance that Mitt Romney will win its eleven Electoral College votes. It just makes sense that if you are a Democrat living in Tennessee who supports President Obama, and want to make a difference in this election; you're going to use your energy to be part of the ground game in a swing state like North Carolina.
Have you ever thought about the other side of this strategy? What about Republicans who actively support Mitt Romney who live in a non-swing state? It makes sense that they too would want to make a difference for their candidate and would use a similar tactic. Rachel Maddow has been thinking about this. In the last segment of Friday night's edition of The Rachel Maddow Show she considered the possibility that Alabama Republicans traveling to Ohio might not work out so well.
Personally, I have a fondness for Alabama. As a child I lived in Alabama during my grade school years, from third through sixth grade. I distinctly remember more than once during recess on the playground other children asking me, “Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?” And not knowing the answer or what the question even meant. After graduating high school in Florida, I returned to attend college there. I have family and friends that I love and adore that still live in Alabama, especially my aunt who sent me a text message tonight.
I have very few allies in the current political “argument.” This part of Alabama is either solid black (Democrats) or pretty solid white (Republicans)! As always. How are things where you live?My aunt is an 80-year-old white woman who is a Democrat living in an area of the country where most of the people she knows are Republicans. So she has nobody around her to talk to about the current presidential race. Tomorrow I will call her and try to cheer her up by assuring her that President Obama has got this!
While I was transcribing Rachel's segment, there were moments that I thought that perhaps there was a little bit of stereotyping in what Rachel was saying. She quoted one article about the Alabama Republican Governor who said at his inauguration so anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savor, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister. Another article Rachel referenced talked about a “Republican state senator in Alabama who wrote and distributed a speech about how slavery was not only justified by the Bible, he said the under appreciated thing about slavery in the United States was how good slavery was for black people.” That was in 1996. My gut reaction was to tell Rachel that all people in Alabama do not think like that.
By the time I finished the transcription I realized that the point Rachel was making was that the Republicans from Alabama who would be traveling to Ohio to campaign for Mitt Romney were enthusiastic Republicans of the Deep South brand. After all, these people are so enthusiastic about Mitt Romney who loves cheesy grits that they are uprooting their lives to travel to Ohio to campaign on his behalf. And I have to wonder along with Rachel about just how much help these people from Alabama will be to Mitt Romney's goal of winning Ohio by bringing their particular brand of Republicanism to Ohio. Remember KGardner's diary? She said “this has been going on, quietly, since last summer.” Alabama Republicans are planning to deploy to other states (Ohio, Florida and Virginia) for only four-day trips at the end of October. North Carolina was originally one of the targeted states but seems to have been dropped from the list. Perhaps they heard about all the work KGardner and her friends have been doing in North Carolina and were dissuaded, or maybe they think Mitt Romney has nothing to worry about there, or maybe there just aren't enough volunteers.
The exciting news at the end of the show was that we did not have to go to jail tonight. As you probably already know, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell is only on Monday through Thursday nights, and so on Fridays MSNBC usually broadcast episodes of the Lockup series. What a pleasant surprise it was to see a special edition of The Last Word hosted by Ezra Klein. I'm already a big fan and I hope that this is an indication that it will be a regular Friday feature, or even better, that Ezra Klein will soon be hosting his own show on MSNBC.
The video and transcription are below the fleur-de-orange. What do you think? Is it a good idea for Alabama Republicans to go to Ohio to campaign for Mitt Romney? Will they be any help to him in his quest to win the state on Election Day?
We're from Alabama and We're Here to Help
Here is the direct link to watch the video at MSNBC for those who use an iPad or other device that cannot view embedded videos.
Are you a non-swing state voter? I am, too. I feel your pain. If you live in New York or Mississippi or Oklahoma or Vermont, there's not a lot of mystery about the election in your state this year. In years like this, no matter how excited you are about the presidential election, if you are a non-swing state voter, you can sort of feel like you don't count. But there's always phone banking, right? Calling people from your non-swing state; calling people who are in swing states to try to convince those folks to vote for one candidate or the other. Usually when non-swing staters get involved, it's stuff like that; it's phone calls, right? But on the left there have been some fun culture clashes over the years involving Democrats from liberal places, not just phone calling, but physically getting up and going to swing states to try and help the Democratic candidates in undecided America. You saw that famously in 1968 with the Get Clean for Gene idea. Hippy college kids flooding into New Hampshire to campaign for Eugene McCarthy who was running as an anti-Viet Nam war challenger to President Lyndon Johnson in the primary. Those young volunteers famously underwent dehippiefying makeovers, right? So that the New Hampshire electorate would not feel accosted or creeped out by these subversive outsider long-haired loons.
Video fo News ReportGet your haircut, hippies. Your appearance. Your demeanor. Clean for Gene volunteers did make a difference. Gene McCarthy got 42% of the vote in New Hampshire primary and ultimately President Johnson went on to quit the race.
David Brinkley speaking: By bus or own cars and otherwise, they have come to New Hampshire from campuses not only in the Northeast but as far away as the South and the Midwest; a ten hour bus ride sometimes. In the morning at the headquarters in an empty store, they got a little briefing on how to canvas door to door in the most effective way so as to win votes for their man McCarthy rather than loosing them.Man speaking to volunteers: ... have had three weeks to do. More than anything since your encounter with the voters will be brief they're going to judge you on your appearance and demeanor. And so it's just crucial that you pay very close attention to the appearance you are presenting.
You know, you saw a similar mass influx in 2004 in Iowa on behalf of the anti-Iraq war Democratic candidacy of Vermont Governor Howard Dean. The Dean campaign called it the Perfect Storm; an estimated 3500 Howard Dean supporters converging on Iowa ahead of the caucuses. The Perfect Storm campaigners were easy to spot because they wore these day-glo safety orange stocking caps. In the end Howard Dean finished a disappointing third place in Iowa; the Perfect [Orange Hat] Storm did not work. The news editor at Salon.com at the time suggested putting yourself in the boots of an average Iowa Democrat. Quote, The campaign is so intense that it has become a form of political harassment. Your phone rings every 10 minutes with an automated robo-call on behalf of one candidate or another. Your mailbox is jammed with political junk mail. Then comes a knock on your door and there you find a couple of committed campaigners from Park Slope or Noe Valley or Wicker Park telling you that Howard Dean is your man. And they’re wearing these really loud orange caps. ... I can’t help but think the Dean-ites came off as a little precious, maybe even a little bit cultish, in those caps [See: The curse of the orange hats by Edward W. Lempinen, Salon.com, January 20, 2004].
How your campaign presents itself when it is deploying volunteers to disputed territory; every nuance of how you present yourself in that circumstance matters. And this year's no exception. Consider the great state of Alabama. There's no mystery where Alabama's electoral votes are going to go this fall, right? So if you're really psyched about the presidential election this year and you're from Alabama, there's really no use in your volunteering and canvassing in your hometown. So Alabama Democrats this year have been taking their pent up desire to work for the President's reelection and they've turn it into sending car loads of Alabama Democratic volunteers across the border into the Florida panhandle to campaign for President Obama there.
Again, the Democrats are not going far. They're going right over their state border to that part of Florida that sometimes gets called Florabama because it seems so much like Alabama over there. That's what the Democrats are doing. But the Republicans from Alabama, they are not just day tripping across the state border to somewhere very much like where they are. No, the Republicans in Alabama are going long. Two hundred Alabama Republican volunteers have reportedly signed up to campaign in Ohio. And in some other states in the House, but also Ohio; going door to door, soliciting votes for Mitt Romney [See: With Alabama secure for Mitt Romney, parties aim elsewhere, The Associated Press, October 1, 2012]. In great Howard Dean Perfect Storm style, the Alabama Republicans have a name for the volunteers they're going to be busing around the country. They're calling them Battleground Patriots [See: Alabama's Battleground Patriots]. And they're not just going on trips to Ohio or North Carolina or Florida or Virginia; they say that they are going on deployments. So bus loads of Alabama Republicans are deploying. They're going to descend on swing states later this month to persuade people who aren't necessarily going to vote for Mitt Romney, that those people ought to vote for Mitt Romney.
One of the things that Mr. Romney is up against in this election is that regardless of how voters say the feel about individual candidates, voters this year do not like the idea of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is not selling right now. More people dislike the Republican Party than like it. And so now into that political reality, what we're going to do is take Alabama Republicans and spread ’em out around the country. Send them out to meet undecided voters in Ohio, to remind those undecided or independent voters what Republicanism is all about. Hi, we’re from Alabama and we're here to help. Hey, Ohio, when you’re thinking about voting for Mitt Romney, think Alabama Republicans.
On the day of his inauguration, Alabama's current Republican governor Robert Bentley said quote ...so anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savor, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister [See: Gov.-elect Robert Bentley intends to be governor over all, but says only Christians are his 'brothers and sisters' by David White, The Birmingham News, January 17, 2011]. Inauguration day. The last time we had a Democratic president running for reelection in 1996, it was a Republican state senator in Alabama who wrote and distributed a speech about how slavery was not only justified by the Bible, he said the under appreciated thing about slavery in the United States was how good slavery was for black people [See: Bible Backed Slavery, Says A Lawmaker by David White, The Associated Press, May 10, 1996]. This was in 1996; not 1896. And the reaction by Alabama Republicans? Well, they just kept him around. He stayed in the state senate for two more years after the slavery was good for black people thing. Why not? Why get rid of him? What's the problem?
Last year when demonstrators came to Alabama to protest its draconian new anti-immigrant law, the Alabama Republican Party Chairman [Bill Armistead] told the local press quote This is reminiscent of others coming into our state to cause trouble [See: JOEY KENNEDY: Immigration law bringing Alabama all the attention it doesn't need, The Birmingham News, November 22, 2011]. Reminds you of that, huh? The Mitt Romney for president campaign is about to get the benefit, in probably the most important swing state in the country, of a self proclaimed deployment of hundreds of Republican partisans from Alabama spreading out through Ohio, knocking on doors, talking to people who are statistically likely to have a very negative view of Republicans. They're going to be making the case to those people that this visit from the Republican Party of Alabama is why you should vote for Mitt Romney. Undecided Ohio voter, meet a bus full of Alabama Republicans. What could possibly go wrong? I wonder if they will have matching hats?
That does it for us tonight. Now it's time for a special live Friday edition of The Last Word. Have a great night.