Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reno for Obama!

Lucas, Rocky and I roadtripped to Reno a couple weekends ago -- to visit with my cousin Cathy and her family, and to help the Obama campaign out there.I was somewhat dismayed when we drove up to the Obama campaign office in Reno. It was pretty desolate - depressing actually -- an old storefront in a two-store, rundown strip mall. We walked in and there were just two people there. The woman asked if we were from California, I told her yes. She said, "Oh, all the California people are down the street." She gave us directions and we drove over.

That's when things started to look up. There was a woman directing traffic, she let us know that the parking lot was full and to look for parking on the street. We parked a few blocks away and walked over to the building. There was a line out the door and around the building, volunteers from California waiting to spread the word of Obama to the good people of Reno.

Rocky and I made friends in line with folks who were from Berkeley and El Cerrito, the two towns bordering my own. Some of these folks have done this before, in 2000 and 2004, driven to Reno to campaign for the Democratic candidates at the time. But they said they have never seen anything like what they were seeing this time for Obama - the enthusiasm and numbers of people were unparalleled.

There were so many volunteers, other people who had come from all over California, wanting to make sure they could do everything in their power to get Obama elected. It was inspiring to say the least.
During the training, they covered hot topics with Nevadans. Regarding guns, the campaign manager said, "We love our guns. Don't tell them that Obama wants to take their guns away, tell them Obama will let people keep their guns, he just wants to keep guns out of the hands of criminals."(Meanwhile, Lucas is at a grand opening of a new ultra sporting good store. This is the photo Cathy sent to me of Lucas and his cousin Connor on the day we learned about guns in Nevada. You know what they say, when in Rome...)After our training we went off to our assigned precinct. I've never done this kind of work before, but I have to say that it was pretty well organized. The systems they have in place and type of knowledge volunteers get about the doors they are knocking on is very helpful and well thought out.

I don't know if this was every Californians' experience, but the people Rocky and I were assigned to were identified as either definitely (OB1) or probably (OB2) going to vote for Obama. For these folks, we just had to make sure they planned on voting, and to inform them about early voting.

I didn't know about the importance of early voting until Reno:
  • Voters are sometimes dismayed by long lines on election day, and will walk away thinking, "What's the difference if I vote or not". But in a place like Nevada, every vote really does count.
  • Voters are sometimes swayed by the onslaught of negative ads in the final days before e-day.
  • Voters sometimes get to the polls on e-day, only to find that there was something wrong with their voter registration. If you vote early, you can find this out and have time to get it cleared so you can vote.
I was so surprised by the friendliness and openness of the people in Reno. No one asked who it was when we rang their doorbells, they just opened their doors to us. As most people were predisposed to voting for Obama, they were uber friendly...saying things like, "Thanks for letting me know, I didn't know I could vote early" or "Keep up the good work". Even when people come to our door at home for Obama or the DNC, I still let them know I'm in a hurry to close the door. (Note to self, be nicer to people who come to our door at home).

Over the course of two days, we hit all sorts of different neighborhoods close to downtown Reno (the self-proclaimed "biggest little city in the world") - beautiful tree-lined streets with old traditional homes filled with families, little apartment complexes with young 20-somethings or elderly folks.) I silently thanked the campaign organizers for not sending us two Asians into any rural trailer parks. They probably save those for the native Nevadans.

Did I mostly knock on doors with no one home. Yes.
Did I persuade anyone from the McCain camp to Obama? No.
But did I feel like I made a difference? YES.

You can see below, if you squint carefully, just how divided it is in Washoe County , Nevada. This was a common sight - a McCain sign sandwiched between two Obama yard signs. It was amazing how split this county is.
And since our trip to Reno, I've been reading so much about the battle for this state.

It was written up in the NY Times, and this from a 10/24 article on the UK's Telegraph online news source:
This month, for the first time in 30 years, the number of registered Democratic voters in Washoe has inched ahead of Republicans.

Nevada has backed the winner in all but one general election - Jimmy Carter in 1976 - in almost a century and is viewed as critical territory by both sides.

Republicans have won Nevada in eight of the 10 past presidential election. In 2004, Mr Bush beat John Kerry by 21,000 votes. But the latest polls show Mr Obama with a four-point lead over Mr McCain.

And it seems like Obama's campaign and presence is definitely outweighing McCain.

Many in Reno say they have witnessed unprecedented levels of campaign activity and passion this election. The Obama campaign, which has been working furiously in Nevada since before the state's winter caucuses, has 15 field offices (the McCain operation has nine), hundreds of staff and has flooded Nevada with thousands of volunteers, many from California, who have ventured into every corner of the state.

"Obama's just out-campaigning McCain at the moment," said Eric Herzik, political science professor at University of Nevada-Reno. "He has more people on the ground, he's more visible and he's running more ads on television. At an anecdotal level, the last three weekends, I have had Obama people at my door - and mine is a mixed household of registered Republicans and Democrats. I haven't seen a McCain person."

I wish I could have gone for more than one weekend, it was such an awesome experience.

In other Reno news, aside from guns, Lucas was also introduced to the Wii. He had a lot of fun playing some Star Wars game with Connor.
And then of course, sharing a monster brownie with Connor and Cassidy at dinner one night.It was such a great trip on all fronts. I'm continuing to watch Nevada closely in the polls, and keeping my fingers crossed.

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