Notes From a Battleground State: On the Ground

Presidential Elections, US Politics
Volunteers outside of the OSU Obama campaign office

Volunteers outside of the OSU Obama campaign office

I volunteer for the Obama campaign here in Columbus, Ohio. I have been for a while and have watched the ranks of volunteers swell and swell. These days the mood is probably best summarized as “nose to the grindstone” — people are optimistic and somewhat hopeful, but everyone I’ve come in contact with seems allergic to taking anything for granted. And everyone is working their butts off.

I’m deaf so I don’t do the two biggest volunteer jobs — phone banks and canvassing. That works out well because while I’m more than happy to answer questions or debate someone who’s being obnoxious, I really dislike any sort of salesmanship, getting into people’s private space (whether knocking on doors or making calls) to convince them of something. I know this is the bedrock of a successful campaign operation, though, so I thank and admire the people who do this with sensitivity and aplomb — and I’ve met a lot of those people.

Inside of OSU Obama office

Inside of OSU Obama office

What I do instead is various odds and ends. I took my (cheap, digital, low-quality) camera with me on Tuesday and snapped some photos as I made my rounds.

First, I bought a bunch of supplies that had been requested by the campus Obama office and dropped them off. These ranged from chalk and cheap hairspray (a major “chalking” operation was taking place on campus that day as various artists drew on streets and sidewalks encouraging people to vote for Obama) to handsoap and dishsoap.

The OSU office was a cheerful, chaotic place. I received much gratitude for the bags of goodies I’d brought. There were posters and stickers and fliers everywhere on the walls, and food and drink and stacks of paper everywhere on the tables, but the overall sense was of pleasant industry.

Prominently displayed were the office’s goals:

Before November 4th, 2008:

12,000 doors knocked

3,105 volunteers recruited

500 Early Vote shuttle rides

10 On-campus shuttle events

6 house parties (off-campus)

5 Earned Media events

3 voter protection events

1 win on November 4th

From there I went to do some posting of fliers. It’s one of those bits of grunt work along the chain. If you a) make nice fliers and b) put them up enough places where people will see them then c) it’s more likely that people will show up for the big canvassing event that d) is one of the best ways to get people to vote for your candidate.

One thing I was thinking as I was doing this is that I represent the Obama campaign and I want to stay absolutely appropriate. It hit me that this is one aspect of the Obama messaging — people know that Obama wants to do things by the book, no-drama Obama, and there doesn’t need to be an explicit message from on high for that. Nobody told me. But I did a bunch of checking to see whether putting things on utility poles and such was OK (the answer seems to be “no,” so I didn’t), and checking with business owners who have kiosks or bulletin boards to make sure it was OK if I put things up.

Most of them were, and a few of them did require permission first so I was glad I asked. One place had some stuff in their windows about local events so I went in to ask if I could put up the flier — the three employees gathered all shot looks at their boss (busy elsewhere) and looked sheepish, then one said, “Uh, she [indicating boss] doesn’t like him…” Another picked up with “WE love him though so if it was up to us…” I briefly considered talking to the boss lady about WHY she doesn’t like Obama, but the employees seemed to be dreading just that possibility so I just smiled and thanked them and sailed off.

Several people gave me thumbs-ups and smiles as I put stuff up — a few examined the flier closely and said they’d be there.

Mission, such as it was, accomplished.



  1. nimh  •  Oct 23, 2008 @8:14 pm

    Every little bit!

  2. engineer  •  Oct 24, 2008 @2:44 pm

    I drove by the Wilmington office last night. At 7:30, the parking lot was full and the place was bustling!