Went out to Burlington today to do voter registration. They don't have an Obama office out there, but they do have an Obama staffer working out of the local Democratic Party office. I joined a group of mostly Chapel Hill people, who carpooled from Carrboro which cut the driving about in half for me.
They had us do a modified version of the canvass S. and I went on a couple of weeks ago. That time, we had maps identifying unregistered voters. This time, they said that going to just the targeted houses slowed things down too much. So this time, what they did was identify maps with a high concentration of unregistered voters, and just have us knock on every door in the neighborhood.
We split into pairs, and I paired up with a nice guy named Bill. He was a self-described tech geek, and if you're going to spend an afternoon with a stranger, it's nice for it to be someone you have a lot in common with. We were sent to a really good neighborhood: small houses, which means they're close together, but nice family homes, not a sketchy area. And heavily Democratic: we had to ask people who they support, and I met only one person who said "not Obama" plus one who said "undecided" and I think she meant "not Obama, go away." A couple of people sounded genuinely undecided, a few didn't want to tell me, and the vast majority said Obama. So it was really an ideal place to canvass for future GOTV.
(Libertarians may again be glad to know that we had a code on our info sheet for Bob Barr. I haven't yet met a Barr supporter but they've been sending me places where I'm not likely to.)
My favorite encounter was a pair of men who were sitting on the back of a pickup truck in the shade, just shooting the breeze. I asked if they were registered and they said yes. One of the men told me that his daughter Deborah was in a house up the street and she wasn't registered. I promised I would try to get her to register when I got up there.
Well when I got to that house, a young man answered the door and told me everyone in the house was registered, and he's an Obama volunteer at Alamance Community College. I asked him if Deborah was there? He looked really surprised and said, "yes..." with this hilarious tone like, how the heck do you know that? I explained, "Her dad says she isn't registered and he asked me to talk to her."
He sent Deborah out and I registered her. She said she had registered before in Winston-Salem, where she goes to school, but then she decided she'd rather vote absentee here. Then while we were filling out the form, it came out that she had a registration form for Winston-Salem but had never sent it in. So she's actually a new registration.
On the way back I told the two guys in the truck that I had seen Deborah and had registered her, and thanked them for telling me about her. They chatted with me for a minute and then one asked if I wanted some water. Oh my god, yes! By that point I had been walking around for over 3 hours. Just standing in the shade for a minute was a relief. These guys asked me to sit down on the back of truck bed, and brought me a glass of ice water. They were the best people ever.
While I was sitting Bill walked up, so I shared the water with him. He tried to talk the two guys into volunteering by telling them that there are lots of friendly ladies working for Obama. I was a little appalled by that, but it's true, most of the volunteers are women. One of the guys actually seemed interested by that and Bill wrote down the local office address for him.
My only complain about the event was that I mistakenly thought we were going to be clipboarding and I wore the wrong shoes. I wore my sandals: light, cool, fine for standing but not good for extended walking. My feet hurt so bad by the time I got home. Now I feel much better but I do have several blisters on each foot. And may I say, blisters under calluses feel really weird. Next time sneakers for sure.
Bill and I got 6 registrations. Fewer than we would have gotten standing outside a supermarket for that length of time. But we also got voter info on dozens of homes, which is valuable too. We chatted with the Obama staffer for a few minutes when we got back. She's an interesting person, she came down here from New York. We swapped stories about encounters with, shall we say, "low information voters." Like that guy I talked to, who sounded so annoyed when he found out that the primary wasn't the only election and he was going to have to vote again in November.
The staffer told us a great story that was second-hand from the staffer in Caldwell. She (the Caldwell person) cold called someone and said she was calling on behalf of Barack Obama. The voter replied, "He's running for police commissioner, right?" No ma'am, explained the staffer, he's running for President of the United States. The voter said, "what's the difference!"
I'm pretty impressed that the Obama campaign sent field workers to places like Burlington and Caldwell. (I'm assuming she meant Caldwell County but actually I don't know, there are several towns named Caldwell in the state.) They could easily have justified letting the Orange County office handle Alamance as well. With eleven offices plus who knows how many staffers, the organization in this state must be massive.
Fivethirtyeight.com posted something today which estimates (exact numbers are not known) that Obama field offices outnumber McCain's by three to one. However, McCain's total includes "Victory Offices" which are run by the Republican party and work for all state Republican candidates. But Obama's total only includes dedicated Obama field offices, not offices like the one in Burlington which organized the event I went to today. I think that means that, if comparing apples to apples, Obama's organization actually outnumbers McCain's by far more than three to one.
I still don't believe Obama is going to win NC, but it won't be for lack of trying.