Stephen rested on his rake to talk to my wife, Connie, and me, taking a moment from his seasonal suburban ritual to take part in our seasonal political ritual. This last weekend, we had returned to Pennsylvania, canvassing neighborhoods in Ft. Washington. "We're still undecided. I'll be taking a look at the candidates' voting records," he told us politely but noncommittally. We chatted a few minutes before letting Stephen return to leaf-raking, and went along to the next house on our list. A woman removing groceries from her car called out to us, "We're for Obama! Talk to our neighbors!" After leaving literature about the impact of Obama's tax proposals on Pennsylvania voters at one door, we were hailed by a blonde woman in an SUV rounding a curve. "I'm glad I spotted you. My kids are dying for some Obama buttons and they've run out of them at the local office." We pulled a couple off our jackets and handed them to the eager soccer players in the back seat.
We had brought cartons of buttons with us from Princeton (I wrote about the amazing button factory there in an earlier post) to the Ft. Washington headquarters at the Teamsters Union Hall, and they were a popular commodity over the weekend. Visiting Teamsters grabbed a bucket full to take to Western Pennsylvania. We've promised to bring them another carton-load next weekend for the final Get Out the Vote push.
Saturday had been very rainy in our part of the East Coast (the World Series was delayed two hours because of this storm system). Going door to door in pouring rain is not fun. But the Obama show must go on! It was hard to keep things dry as we juggled umbrellas and our clipboards of lists, maps, talking points and Democratic Party literature. We didn't succeed in that attempt. But we were very successful in talking to voters who were staying home in the bad weather. As always, Sarah Palin produced strong reactions: Dan and his wife offered, "We were split down the middle till McCain selected Palin. How could he put her one heartbeat from the Presidency?" One voter told me "I'm a schoolteacher, how do you think I'm voting?" When I asked her if this meant Obama, she said "Of course!" But her husband was still planning to vote Republican. "I've talked to him and talked to him, but I can't get him to use his commonsense!" At one point as the skies opened up, a man asked us wonderingly "You came here from Princeton, New Jersey?" "I swam over" was my answer. It might have been the rain, but I felt a somber foreboding as I canvassed a seemingly wealthy neighborhood full of McMansions, liberally sprinkled with for sale signs. Here was the concrete impact of the tumbling housing market and credit crisis.
Sunday brought far different weather, a classically beautiful, crisp fall day. We were sent to a well-established neighborhood of older homes - beautiful Pennsylvania fieldstone houses, historic colonial homes, Victorian gingerbread and characterful Arts and Crafts houses. There were very few for sale signs in this neighborhood, and the lovely weather tempted many residents out of doors, despite the Eagles game on TV. At some doors, we were brusquely turned away, but Sabra, wearing a US Navy tee-shirt, volunteered that she had been a high school classmate of Barack Obama and offered to show us his basketball team picture in her yearbook. That story so impressed her neighbor that she stated she was switching her vote from independent to Obama, while we admired her historic home.
We were told over and over that we were not the first from the Obama campaign to stop by, that we were the second, third or even fourth canvassers. The Obama campaign is going full throttle for the Battle of Pennsylvania. In the five weekends we've volunteered to go door-to-door in Montgomery County neighborhoods, we've seen McCain-Palin signs, but not a single volunteer from their campaign. Next weekend promises to be very exciting. When a man complained that we were the third people to knock on his door, I told him, "Expect to see more visitors - this is the biggest battle in Pennsylvania since Gettysburg."
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