Austin, Texas By Paul Alexander
This week, Barack Obama has shown clear signs that he is confident he is going to win. But privately, top Obama leadership are still worried that Republicans might be able to pull off another improbable election night victory.
Last week, in closed-to-the-press meetings, Obama officials briefed major donors about their concerns heading into the election’s final stretch. One of those meetings took place in Austin, Texas—a city in the solid red state of Texas that has raised a surprisingly large amount of money for Obama, mostly from the city’s high-tech community.
“The Obama campaign has learned the lessons of 2000 and 2004. On Election Day, lawyers will be everywhere—all the way down to the county level.”
In Texas and other states, Obama officials are preparing for the possibility that polls may be wildly off because of the so-called Bradley effect.
“The Obama officials are very cautious,” says an attendee at the Austin meeting. “They want comfortable margins in place just in case. They are looking at three to six percentage points as a possible Bradley effect. Before they consider a state comfortable, they want it outside the polling margins. They think the Bradley effect could be as large as six—maybe even seven—percentage points, but they don’t really know.”
Another major concern of the campaign is what they consider to be voter suppression. “The Obama leadership believes there is a systematic campaign,” says the attendee, “by the White House and the Justice Department to suppress voter turnout across the country.”
To counteract the Bradley effect and potential voter suppression, the Obama leadership has amassed one of the largest legal teams ever assembled by a presidential campaign. The main goal of the legal team, almost all of them volunteers, is to guarantee ballot security. “The Obama campaign has learned the lessons of 2000 and 2004,” my source says. “On Election Day, lawyers will be everywhere—all the way down to the county level.
Obama officials point to the government’s treatment of ACORN, the nationwide association of community organizations, as an example of possible voter suppression. The campaign has never relied on ACORN for its voter registration drives, according to Obama officials, and is viewed as only one of many venders hired by the campaign. Of the $605 million raised by the Obama campaign so far, only $800,000 has gone to ACORN—a number that could be much larger, and would have been had the campaign relied on it more heavily.
But perhaps the most important asset the Obama campaign has is an army of workers estimated to be as large as 100,000 nationwide. Some paid staffers, mostly volunteers, the workers are being spread out across the country to states the Obama campaign is targeting. For example, 5,000 workers based in Texas—a state Obama doesn’t expect to win—are being relocated to New Mexico, a state Obama believe he can win.
Obama workers will be flooding into other battleground states in the waning days of the presidential race, among them Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio—perhaps even Georgia and Montana. What is impressive about this sizable operation is its very organization. By Election Day, campaign officials believe, they may have the most extensive grass-roots organization of any presidential campaign in history.
Wausau, Wisconsin By Rachel Hulin
Yesterday, I was canvassing for Barack Obama in Wausau, Wisconsin when an elderly man brought this flyer into the office. He said it was taped to mailboxes all over his neighborhood. At the bottom, in fine print, is written: Approved and Sponsored by: Barack Hussein Obama II for President, Wausau Chapter. Is this another whisper campaign? It reminded me of eight years ago during the presidential primaries, when dozens of South Carolina radio stations received phone calls from people claiming John McCain had fathered a black child. The story was false, but many believe it helped tank McCain’s candidacy.
Santa Monica, California By Erika Schickel
Just because you’re too young to vote doesn’t mean you can’t take part in the political process. This was the idea I had been burnishing when I told my kids we were going out to Santa Monica to volunteer for Obama.
There was a lot of griping. The teen wanted to walk to the park with her boyfriend to play their ukuleles and snuggle. The ‘tween wanted a play date with her friend next door. But I had a vision of us working together, a family united in hope. “No, let’s be the change we want to see in the world!” I think I may have actually chirped at them. Eyes rolled.
But I’m still the boss of them, so half an hour later we were standing in the campaign office getting our assignments. It was abuzz with volunteers, clearly a family affair. There were skater boys phone banking, grade-schoolers sorting call sheets. Every phone was being used, and every time a caller spoke with an Obama voter they rang a bell. Bells were ringing all over the office.The atmosphere was festive. A snack table had water, coffee and an industrial-sized bag of M&M’s. I was feeling the hope.
I started dialing up Nevada voters. It being late afternoon, not many people were home, but every person I spoke to had me ringing the bell. The teen and her boyfriend were sent out to a nearby shopping mall to hand out leaflets. A few surly McCain people snarled and crumpled up the fliers, but mostly they met kindred spirits. The ‘tween was put in charge of shredding stacks of paper, which she did until the shredder overheated. She was in heaven.
Nobody wanted to leave, the ‘tween begging for ten more minutes. But dinner and homework waited and I had to pry them out of there. We drove home happy. Before bed, the teen emerged from her room and said, “I want to volunteer again Mom. It made me feel important.”