This morning I was obsessing over the last minute polls, the alarming stories of "tightening" in many races, most especially the Cardin-Steele race, and wondering if disrupting my life for a week was even accomplishing anything. Yes, as it turns out, it was worth it.
I think I made the right call to work for the Cardin campaign rather than the Casey campaign. Casey clobbered Santorum, he clearly didn't need help. But the margin for Cardin was close enough that I can feel like I made a difference. In reality, I probably didn't. How much difference can any one person make, especially someone at the lowest level of volunteering? But still, I feel better about working for a close campaign than an overwhelming victory.
Today was much better than yesterday. Mainly because they sent me out partnered with other people. So even though I spent all day canvassing, everything went fast and I didn't get nearly as tired. It's harder to be by yourself: I would park the car at one end of the neighborhood and then walk the whole route. But with someone else, you can start at one end of the street, have them drive to the other end, and meet in the middle.
I spent the afternoon in Havre de Grace -- beautiful little historic town -- with Tom,* an interesting guy who works at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. It was good to hear the perspective of a career military man on the war. (In short, he thinks it's been criminally mismanaged.) At one point we were walking around and heard a loud booming sound. I looked up, thinking "oh no, a thunderstorm is rolling in!" He chuckled and told me it was a gun from over at Aberdeen. He even knew what it was by the sound; I think he said a "155" but don't quote me on that.
*not his real name, as he said they never discuss politics at work so I don't want to post statements about his political opinions on the internets.
After Havre de Grace I took a quick break for lunch and then they sent me out with a woman named Peg, to a neighborhood in Bel Air. We got about halfway through the neighborhood when we ran into another team doing the exact same packet! It was kind of embarrassing; we walked up to the same house at the same time as they did. I think they were supposed to do them earlier in the day, leaving hang-tags on doors, and then we were supposed to come back through and make sure people had voted. But they were several hours behind. I don't know if they were just slow, or if the coordinators had overloaded them. Based on my experience, probably the latter.
The other team told us that they had just finished the neighborhood, and we decided it would be pointless to knock on the same doors 10 minutes after them, so we went back to the party office. Peg called it a night, saying she didn't want to drive in the rain, but it was only 5:30 so I stayed to do more. Sam, one of the volunteer coordinators, tried to get me to go with him to Edgewood, which I had heard of as a bad neighborhood, and I didn't like that idea at all. Luckily Marc, the other volunteer coordinator, ran in just then and told me he had a woman who needed a partner. Her name was Joan and she was a hoot. She was a teacher and we were in a neighborhood where her students lived, so she knew everyone. We'd get to a street and she'd run down the list crossing people off: "he moved, she's not home tonight, he's out volunteering, she definitely already voted..." It made things go a lot faster.
We had only been out for about a half hour when Marc called and asked us to come back, so we could go to another district that was showing low turnout. I thought he said Baltimore City, at which Joan was irate, because that would be a 45 minute drive away from us. She called her daughter who was working at the Cardin campaign, and reassured us that "they pay canvassers to go where they might get killed" and no one was going to send volunteers like us to Baltimore City. Turns out Marc actually said Baltimore County, much closer to Bel Air. Except that when we got back to the party office, Marc announced that they would be sending us, along with 3 other people, to Towson. Which is apparently also 45 minutes away.
Seeing as it was already 6:30 by that point, no one had much enthusiasm. In fatc I'd describe the reaction as "trying to calm Marc down long enough to explain why we aren't going." I simply said no, I lived a hour north of there and no way was I going to go another 45 minutes south. The others convinced Marc that we didn't lack dedication, but by the time we got there it would be too late to accomplish anything. So he called the Cardin people back and told them that we would be sent to a low turnout district in Harford County instead.
By some cool coincidence, he sent us to the exact same neighborhood in Aberdeen where I had been on Sunday afternoon. I had kind of mixed feelings about that actually. On the one hand, I knew where we were going and I remembered people as being really nice. On the other, I was disappointed that turnout had been low there. Had I done a bad job of canvassing on Sunday? I left there thinking that everyone was really enthusiastic about voting. Then again, each district comprises several neighborhoods so maybe the folks I talked to did vote like they said they were going to.
I was walking with a really nice fellow named Pat. He had a somewhat different style of approaching people than I did. My style was "short and sweet" -- keep it fast so as to impose on people as little as possible. By Tuesday afternoon it was just "Hi, have you voted yet today? Great, have a good day!" Pat liked to establish a connection by addressing the person by name, introducing himself and me, and talking at more length. I think his approach was maybe less efficient when we're down to the wire, but probably more effective earlier in the GOTV campaign. Next time I do this, I'll try to adopt more of his way of connecting with people.
Unfortunately, all the back-and-forth wrangling about where we were going to go had taken so much time, that we didn't get there until almost 7:30. Which was too late to visit even half the packet. We walked a few blocks, talked to a few people, and then realized that even if we found someone who admitted to not having voted yet, we might not being able to get them to the polls in time. So we bailed.
On the way home I treated myself to dinner at the Charcoal Pit. Dang that is a good burger. According to the menu they grind their own beef. I probably should have skipped dessert, but who can resist the hot fudge ice cream cake?
It's weird to think that it's all over. No more driving up route 155 on my way to Bel Air. No more "Hi, my name is Sarah and I'm a volunteer with the Maryland Democratic Party." No more of that stupid $5 toll bridge. Tomorrow I drive back to Durham, and then back to work on Thursday.
So, 2008, the campaign of whoever is running against Dole. Who's with me?