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11.03.08

The Boys on the Bus

All of my favorite moments in this campaign have offered me snapshots of the incredible level of engagement and commitment the race has inspired in an unprecedented number of Americans. The most memorable moment of all came on the Saturday before last March’s Texas primary. At that point, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s back was against the wall. So I headed to Texas to watch some of her volunteers making the last ditch effort to stave off elimination. With all the creativity that I could muster, I figured Hillary Clinton, back against the wall, Texas—where should I go? I picked the Alamo.

So it was that on a hazy Saturday I spent much of the afternoon following a group of Clinton volunteers as they went door to door for her in a neighborhood just north of San Antonio. The neighborhood was both funky and Texan—the kind of place where you would see a Prius and a pick-up in the same driveway. I ended up mostly following a compact, energetic middle-aged woman as she made her way down the street. In one hand she carried a sheaf of Clinton literature; in the other she was lugging a stack of large yard signs. The woman, Amy Rao, was friendly at the door, but focused, gently insistent, and determined. It turned out that she (and her friend) was part of a group of about 40 women who had flown down on their own dime from San Francisco to spend what could have been the final weekend working for Clinton. And it further turned out that when Rao was not knocking on the doors of strangers, about 1,600 miles from her home, in the Texas haze and heat, she is the founder and CEO of a $140 million Silicon Valley computer company.

That was campaign 2008: a multimillionaire spending her weekend banging on the doors of strangers and lugging yard signs, who explained to me that she would lie in bed and wonder if she was doing enough. “I have never worked this hard for a candidate,” Rao told me at one point. “I wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘What else can I do?’” For millions and millions of Americans this year, the answer was: everything.