1000 Doors for Obama — 1 month, 1000 doors, $5000

The Obamas in North Carolina
October 31, 2008, 10:26 am
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Yesterday was my Obama day.  Both Barack and Michelle campaigned in North Carolina yesterday, so I took the day off campaigning myself to go check out both of their rallies.  

First up was Barack’s Raleigh Rally, in a large open field downtown in the government district called Halifax Mall.  The area itself was an enormous rectangular field with government buildings flanking all sides, and the main legislative building in the back.  I got there at around 10:15 or so, and I had a VIP ticket, so I got to go into a really short line, which was just about the only bright spot of what would be a really frustrating next couple hours.  Our line moved painfully slowly, while the main line was breezing through really quickly.  The main line had about 10 times as many metal detectors available so ours took forever to get through.  So about an hour and a half later, and 100 feet away from where I started, I finally got into the open field area.  I walked around the side to where the VIP entrance was to the up-front area, which bottlenecked right behind a row of port-a-potties, very VIP classy.  Everyone was stuck there and they were saying that there were no more VIP entrances over there and that the Secret Service was cutting off that entrance.  So they directed us to the complete other side of the field, and said we could get in over there.  Which was a complete lie, because there we’re no volunteers on that other side, and nowhere to get through.  So I tried to get back through again on the port-a-potty side, and again failed.  At this point, they had removed the metal detectors at the entrances, so the crowds just started flowing in like mad.  Since I had spent so much time trying to get to the up-front area, the back area, itself barricaded from the other spots, began to get really full.  So I basically just resigned myself to staying in the back.  Obama then came on shortly after that, but I only knew that because I started hearing his voice.  He was so far away that I couldn’t have even pointed in the direction of where he was standing.  And to rub salt into the wounds, my two friends, who had regular, unwashed masses tickets, both somehow got up front, one into the press section literally right behind Obama, and the other into the bleachers just to his left.  Ridiculous.  

So, I grumbled a bit, grabbed lunch with my two lucky friends, and resigned myself to do better at the Michelle rally in Rocky Mount, an hour from Raleigh.  I was a bit late on the road, so I hustled out there, hoping for a small venue with a small crowd that I could easily maneuver around and get some good pictures.  And boy was I wrong.  By the time I got there, right around the time doors were to open, there was a line that stretched two blocks, including one really long block along the entire side of the school.  Realizing that this was in a high-school gymnasium, and that there were probably far too many people in that line, and inspired by my lucky friends from earlier in the day, I decided to abandon the line entirely and go to the back of the school where the press entrance was.  

The entrance to the press area was guarded by a cop with braces, who really was trying just a little too hard to be a hardass.  Luckily, as he was telling me that I had no chance of getting in there and asking me for my press credentials, a suited up guy, who I’m not sure if he was with the campaign or with the Secret Service (or, more likely, was the security liaison for the campaign), said I was ok to come in as a ‘freelance independent photographer’ (that was my pitch) and he escorted me in, right through the back door.  The gamble paid off huge, because when I arrived, the small gym was already half-full, and there would have been no way in hell I would have made it in there at the end of that long line.  

So donning my Obama Press Pass, I had free reign over the entire back and side of the gym, and access to two big press risers where I could perch up high and take pics from behind the crowd, and straight at the podium, and from the side of the crowd, to Michelle’s right.  Perfect.

As for the speeches, Barack was tough to hear from the way-back-zone, but he did rattle off a couple zingers that, as I thought, have made the news today.  He said McCain is throwing everything at him in these last couple of days, and is basically calling him everything in the book.  He said “By the end of this week they’ll be calling me a communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.  Because I shared a bite of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”  I love those lines, and Obama clearly did too, as he chuckled a little bit at himself while delivering them.

As for Michelle, who I was able to hear much better, she is amazing.  I had seen her in a similar situation in the primaries.  It was a couple days after I saw Obama at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, and just like then, I was more smitten with her than I was with him.  Maybe it’s just because Barack is constantly in the news, and if you follow this stuff like I do, you can anticipate what he’s going to say, because he’s had roughly the same message throughout the entirety of the campaign.  But Michelle’s stump speech is different.  She has a better control of the emotional high’s and low’s of her speech.  She can rally the crowd into a thunderous, deafening roar, complete with high-school gym bleacher-stomping, and then take the crowd into a quiet, contemplative place, where the entire room is silent, and she can just barely whisper the words about the plight of her father having Multiple Sclerosis and still getting up every day to work in Chicago to bring up his family and bring a paycheck, and some dignity, home every night.  The crowd in the Rocky Mount High School gym was probably 98% African American, and they surely did love their Michelle.  When she asked at the beginning how many people had already voted early, nearly every hand in the room shot up proudly, a good sign for the campaign and it’s chances in North Carolina.  

So happy with my new press pass, and memory cards full of photos from the two events, I finally headed home.  Enjoy the photos.

PS – Duke itself has been flush with surrogates lately, and I’ll have an update on that later.  We had a couple members of the Wire here on Monday, Edie Falco of the Sopranos on Tuesday, and yesterday Ashley Judd, Valerie Biden (Joe’s sister), and Representative David Price will be stumping at Duke…  A post and some photos to come…


Surrogates Land in NC, bigtime
October 26, 2008, 12:41 pm
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One of the perks of being a battleground state in a hotly contested election is that you get all the cool surrogates to come through and make the case for the candidates.  Two cases in point, with slideshow, are below.

Last week, James “of the honey voice” Taylor came through to play a short set and talk about why he is supporting Obama.  He was fun, funny, and of course came with that perfect pitch.  Not really a huge Taylor fan myself, but I loved hearing him live, as I’m sure all the rest of the couple thousand member crowd did as well.  Truly a performer:

Then, last Thursday, we were graced with the presence of the number one surrogate for Obama, Joe Biden himself.  He came to Raleigh and had a rally (heh) in an outdoor amphitheater at Meredith college on a cool night.  We got there around 6 for a 7 o’clock event, and found the line to be really long and really slow moving.  Apparently, there were all of two metal detectors for the whole crowd to get through, so it was moving really slowly.  We were informed that at 7, they would nix the metal detectors and everyone would get in quickly, which was nice.  We later found out that we would be segregated into the ‘weaponized zone’ as I liked to call it, and I couldn’t get very close to the front or really anywhere outside of the yellow-taped area to get some better shots, alas.  Also, there was a small contingent (about 9 people) outside the entrance with signs claiming “Meredith for McCain”.  Didn’t realize the entire population of Meredith college consisted of those 9 people, but oh well.  Enjoy the limited eye-candy…

1000 (More) Doors for Obama
October 22, 2008, 10:29 am
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Ok, so we are less than two weeks now away from election day, and I’m already close having hit 700 doors.  I would also predict that I’m probably going to be doubling my efforts over these next two weeks as we hit the final stride in this campaign, so I’m hereby doubling my original goal of 1000 doors, and I will now go for a cool 2000.  

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken to hundreds of voters.  Most of them have been extremely nice to me, many of them inviting me into their homes or spending some time having some really intelligent and probing conversations about the state of our country.  A few have been respectful supporters of our opponent, and an even smaller few have been disrespectful, but its a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things.  Going around Durham and speaking to its residents has been a really fun and enlightening experience.  I’ve been to neighborhoods I would have never thought I’d be walking through.  I’ve talked to young African Americans, old white women, hispanic men and women (and brushed up a bit on my spanish in the process), and even a couple of kids who are wishing they were just a couple years older so they too could cast their votes.  I even met a young man who, regrettably, will turn 18 on November 5.  But all of the supporters I’ve talked to had one thing in common, even if they came from radically different backgrounds – they realized the need for us all to recognize as a nation that we have gotten lost in the wilderness, and need to return.

What I’m really trying to say is that this job is easy.

And what I’m really trying to say is that you should try it.

We’ve got just two weeks left to go, and we need that volunteer army.  We need every vote we can muster.  We are not going to let this be a contested election.  We want a runaway.  We want the networks to call the election before our California pals have finished dinner.  We want a 350+ electoral vote win.  We want a convincing popular vote total.  We want to show the world that we have made some mistakes over the last eight years, but we are turning the corner.  We want a 60 seat Senate and an overwhelming House majority.  And the only way to get it is to work.  

So join me on the streets or in the phonebanks.  Contact your local Obama office and tell them you want to help.  If you can’t canvass or make phone calls, drop a donation in my bucket to help fund and feed that volunteer army, or bring a Bojangles Tailgate Special over to your local Obama field office for some overworked organizers.  But whatever you do, don’t sit back and let this go by without playing your part.

Here’s a slideshow of some of my travels and some of the folks I’ve met on the trail… Enjoy.

Handicapping North Carolina’s Blue Chances
October 21, 2008, 6:11 pm
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So as this presidential race charges towards the finish line, North Carolina has, surprisingly to some, become a bona fide battleground state.  Just as recently as a month ago yesterday, Nate Silver over at the quintessential fivethirtyeight.com was predicting a 9% margin for McCain here in the Tarheel state.  Yesterday, in his mid-monthly evaluations of battlegrounds, he pegs North Carolina as a 0.9% favorite for Barack Obama.  Obviously this drastic shift has a lot to do with two factors: one that in mid-September, McCain was still enjoying a bit of a post-convention bounce in his poll numbers, which was especially prevalent in the states that Obama was not ‘supposed’ to be doing well in – ie Southern states, historically red states, etc.  Secondly, Obama’s national numbers in the last couple of weeks have been surging on the basis of his perceived better ability to handle the number one issue, the economy, along with some strong debate performances in which he has exceeded most expectations.  

So where exactly does this put our chances as we sit 2 weeks from election day. At the early vote rally the other day, Maital asked Representative Price why he thinks this year is different.  Price pointed to three specific factors.  Firstly, African American turnout – if Af. Am. Tarheels turn out in record numbers, and drive up the scores in places like Durham (and the Triangle in general), it will have the effect of canceling out some of the redder areas of the state.  Similarly, and secondly, young voter turnout.  Us whippersnappers in the 18-29 demographic are typically the laziest voter bloc out there.  But if this year’s contested primary is a harbinger of things to come, we may be in better shape in both of these areas.  Using available information for about half of the states, African American turnout this year (remember, this is the primaries) compared to 2004, was up 7.8%.  Young Voters were even more impressive, with their numbers up a whopping 52.4%.  This makes sense intuitively as African American voters are much more likely to show up to vote in the first place.  It’s us young’ns that are the really unreliable ones.  Finally, the third thing Representative Price mentioned was the ‘Democratizing’ (for lack of a better word… I’m not quoting Price on that) of the region in general.  More folks are moving south to places like North Carolina and Virginia, and this changing demographic tends to bring more Democrats.  Finally, Price didn’t mention it, but there’s this other big factor thats sorta like the 800 pound Gorilla in the room… you may have heard about it …  it’s called The abject failure of the Bush Administration and the complete bankruptcy of conservative philosophy.  But I digress.

So what data do we have to look at in relation to these factors that Price describes as the driving forces in blue-ifying (another made up term… I may continue doing this…) the state?  Voter Registration.

Looking at the data on the North Carolina Board of Elections site, which keeps pretty durn good numbers, we can see a couple of trends.  Firstly, since the start of this year, registered Democrats have gone from a 591,000 voter advantage to a 790,000 voter advantage.  Or, in other words, since January, Dems have added over 245k voters to their roles, while Republicans have added a mere 46k and unaffiliated with 168k for a total of 463k new voters… since January… in a state with 6 million voters.  Thats a 7.6% increase in total voters, with a 8.9% increase in Democratic Registrations.  These numbers speak to Price’s third point, that the area as a whole is just becoming more big-D Democratic.  Meanwhile, over the same time period, White voter registration has increased by 5.2%, while African American voter registration has increased by 12%, adding an additional 154k black voters to the rolls.  Assuming they vote as the polls are showing, with about 95% support for Obama, and assuming a modest 70% turnout (which is probably low for new registrants, who have a higher voting turnout) thats just under a cool 100,000 extra votes for Obama in the state.  

Some history to go along with this:

Add another 100k just from the African American population, and we’ve narrowed the gap by 2% points.  Add the youth vote into here (which I don’t have direct stats on), and you’ve probably narrowed another 2 points.  So just the numbers put us around 48-52 generically.

Recent polling – All of the last round of recent polling (Rasmussen: O+3, PPP: O+7, Research 2000: O+2) has put Obama ahead by a handful of points overall in the state.  His state average numbers have been only a point or two behind his national numbers, which is a really good sign, considering his national numbers are in the +6, +7 range.  So even if he falls a bit in the last couple days of this campaign (as he is expected to do as all campaigns tighten in the last days), as long as he stays above the +2 or +3 range nationally, he should stay ahead in North Carolina as a whole.  

Early Voting – Obama has been super-diligent about getting people to the polls early.  In Durham County alone, where there are around 190,000 registered voters, as of Monday (yesterday), 24,000 voters have already cast their vote – almost 14%.  Assuming the clip stays about the same, and then ramps up towards the end (which organizers are expecting/hoping), we could see over 50% of all Durham voters casting their votes before election day.  Even more astounding is that if we do get to around 50%, or 95,000 voters, that would be 87% of all votes cast in 2004 – before election day even comes around!  In that year, Durham cast 74,000 votes for Kerry, total, along with 34k for Bush, for a total of around 109k.  If Obama is collecting about 70% of the votes in Durham, that would net him approximately 66,500 votes before election day even comes around, nearly the total Kerry got last go-around.  

The fact is, Obama is dominating the ground game.  He is leading, according to Civitas, among voters who have already voted, by 32%!  One untold story about this election, that people will look back and say how come we never covered that, is how extensive, efficient, and overwhelming Obama’s ground game is.  Everyone out there who is knocking doors, making phone calls, and driving people to the polls is the heart of this campaign – and I’m not just saying that cus I’m one of them.  But I think the media focuses too much on these polls, when, right under their noses, Obama is orchestrating the biggest get out the vote effort we’ve ever seen.  This effort, and the army of volunteers that will be hitting the streets hard for the rest of the month, and especially on election day, is easily worth a couple points in any state where the operation is in full effect, North Carolina included.  So honestly, it really wouldn’t surprise me if Obama wins by even more than 3 points in NC, due solely to getting its voters to the polls, and the enthusiasm of the volunteers.  

Final disclaimer – I am beholden to say this.  The reason he is ahead is because of the energy and the enthusiasm behind his campaign.  This is no time to get complacent.  He is expecting this volunteer army, and if it doesn’t show up because people are happy with the polls, the numbers won’t materialize.  So, two weeks away from election day, I ask everyone to stay diligent, disregard the polls, and fight as though we’re five points behind.  And if you can give a day or two, go volunteer!  As James Carville says, in politics “When your opponent is drowning, throw them an anchor.”

Debate Update: Wordles…
October 17, 2008, 2:44 pm
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Early Voting Rally Today
October 16, 2008, 8:08 pm
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Well, first of all – I VOTED TODAY!  If you are in NC, voting is now open, and you should go right now!  For more info about early voting in NC, or anywhere else for that matter, just go to http://www.barackobama.com and go to your particular state’s site.  In NC, you can go to nc.barackobama.com.  If you are in Durham, you can vote at Duke this year – in the Old Trinity Room near Chik-Fil-a on West Campus.  I went there today around noon or so, and was voter number 332 at that location.  Later in the day, approximately 3:30 or so, I asked a voter what number she was, and the site had gotten over 700 voters by that time.  Not too shabby for the first day of early voting.

So after I voted, I meandered over to Griffith Film Theatre where the Duke Democrats, along with the various campaigns, were holding a rally.  On the docket for the Early Voting Rally was Bev Purdue (running for NC Gov), Kay Hagan (running for US Sen), David Price and Brad Miller (running for US Rep), Former Governor and the wildly popular Jim Hunt, Floyd McKissock Jr (running for NC Sen), and a couple other local office-seekers, with Durham’s own Mayor Bill Bell emceeing.  Quite a panel for an early vote rally, I reckon.  

Some impressions… I thought Bev Purdue was really weak.  She was first up to the mic, she tried to rally the crowd with some early voting rhetoric, but her explanation for how to vote on the ballot confused me, and I had just come from doing it.  As soon as she finished up her 5 minute (if that) speech, she was out the back door as quick as she came in.  Now, I’m not saying I regret voting for her – she’s certainly a much better candidate for Governor than the right-winger Pat McCrory.  Brad Miller was not really all that memorable either, but then again, he’s not my rep, so I guess that’s ok.  On the other hand, Durham’s own representative in the House, David Price, was on as usual.  I actually got to see him about a week or so ago in a town hall format where he answered questions for over an hour from a rather small crowd at Duke.  He was exciting to listen to, in complete command of the issues, and answered a question from me regarding mortgages that he called “a really good question.”  (I guess I may be biased).  But he was on, talking about his Duke roots, and imploring us to get out and vote early, and bring a friend too.  The former Gov. Jim Hunt, who I had really not known much about until recently, was also amazing to listen to.  He easily pivoted between fired up rhetoric often found at events like these, to discussing the ugly racial past of North Carolina in the context of our least favorite public servant, Jesse Helms.  And speaking of Helms, and the carpetbagger that took her slot in the Senate, Kay Hagan then addressed the crowd.  She has a pretty good chance of unseating the Republican no-show (Dole spent a total of I believe 36 days in North Carolina in 2005 and 2006), and helping bring a big Democratic majority to the US Senate.  Her remarks were good, and the crowd was psyched about her, although it felt like she was just reverting back to robot-stump-speech every now and then.

Finally, after all the speeches and rhetoric, the candidates led the crowd from the Bryan Center over to the polling place on Duke’s campus, where everyone was able to vote.  

However, on the way over there, Maital and I were ambushed by…. dun dun dun… Fox News!  Ambushed is a strong word – they asked us for an interview and we gladly accepted.  The reporter was nice, asking us about why we supported Kay Hagan – we both gave good (I reckon) responses.  I stressed the importance of a Democratic team in Washington to help Obama get through his big-think agenda.  Maital talked about her history of support for Kay, being from Greensboro (Kay’s home), and also about support for the Democratic ticket as a whole.  But then Maital did what she does best – she flipped the script, and as the TV crew wandered off for some more b-roll, Maital interviewed the interviewer.  First she asked about Fox News’ so called Fair and Balanced coverage of the presidential race, and their clear or perceived bias towards Republicans.  She hedged on talking about Fox News in general, but did say that she as a reporter always checks her opinions at the door.  They then talked a little bit about Sarah Palin, and the fact that no one has been able to vet her.  The reporter said that she personally had not had a chance to ask Palin any questions – which surprised exactly no one.

Although organizers lamented the weak turnout at the event, which was admittedly pretty low, it was cool to see all the office-seekers getting psyched about early voting, and getting some students excited in the process.  Enjoy the photos.

Write your own caption
October 16, 2008, 6:02 pm
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Feel free to try to put a caption on this…  comments are open.

McCain: “Maaa preeecioussss, I wantss iiit.  PREEECCIOUUSSSS.  I mussst have the presidencccy, maa preecioussss!”  *tongue jut*