News coverage of the "Moving America Forward" rally at The Ohio State University this past Sunday has focused on the massive, energized crowd of 35,000 that gathered to hear from President Obama and the First Lady - the largest since Inauguration Day. Walking the line, listening to young people talk about politics, and watching them fill the Main Oval in the center of OSU's campus, I can tell you it was a truly moving sight.
But, there was another story behind the scenes that has stayed with me. More than any positive movement in the polls or any rally, campaign offices full of staff and volunteers get me fired up. And on Friday, when I walked into the basement of the Ohio coordinated campaign office - the same open, windowless, bunker-style office I worked out of in Columbus in 2008 -the energy was electric. Sprawling tables were full of communications, new media, field, data, and get-out-the-vote staffers working round the clock to support a thriving volunteer-led ground operation. If you didn't know any better, you would think we were prepping for a presidential year election in the Buckeye State.
Similarly, on Saturday, when I hit up a local volunteer office in Columbus and went canvassing door-to-door, I was struck by the incredible effort our volunteers are leading in this critical state during this critical election cycle. Watching a local organizer put on a flawless canvass training in a packed office of enthusiastic volunteers, I was reminded of why we should all do less tuning in to the cable news noise and do more lacing up our sneakers instead.
With early voting already going on in Ohio and many other states and Election Day just two weeks away, Organizing for America supporters are in serious get-out-the-vote mode. OFA supporters across the country are rolling up their sleeves and working hard to make sure the President has a Congress he can work with to continue making progress for the American people.
We've been building toward this moment for months. OFA supporters have been hitting the streets and making calls as part of our Vote 2010 campaign since June 5 - earlier than we kicked off our ground campaign in 2008. With our volunteer leadership in place, we're shipping additional get-out-the-vote resources and tools to our teams to make sure they're fully prepared for early voting and Election Day. Thanks to $16 million in contributions to the Democratic National Committee in September - 80 percent of which came from low dollar donors - we're now in the process of investing in hundreds of GOTV staging locations, extra organizing staff, volunteer phones, and printers.
Like Ohio, volunteers across the country this week are running GOTV trainings, early vote rallies, daily phone banks, visits to barbershops and beauty salons, and hundreds of conference calls with community leaders.
At the same time, we've also been working on tools that make the bread and butter work of organizing - talking to voters one-on-one - much easier for our volunteers. We know that OFA volunteers live active and busy lives, so we're trying new technologies that allow our supporters to get involved and make a difference while accommodating their own schedules. In our mobile and always on-the-go society, these new tools are making it easier for more and more people to volunteer:
• The OFA canvassing tool, launched earlier this fall for the iPhone, is now available to even more supporters with a version designed specifically for Android-powered phones. Using GPS technology, the canvassing tool gives volunteers information on voters near their exact location so they can knock on doors no matter where they are. It also allows volunteers to record who they have talked to and how the conversation went.
• Our new online call tool also makes it easier for volunteers to talk to people in their community. On Saturday, OFA supporters took part in a national "Change by the Million" Day of Action to reach out to one million voters within 24 hours - and the call tool was a key part of the push. The tool gives volunteers information about voters in their area and allows them to make calls on their own time, at their own pace, while making critical connections with neighbors.
With November 2 right around the corner, we're now entering the final phase of our "commit to vote" effort. Volunteers across the country spent the summer asking people to sign commit to vote cards. We're now mailing back to people their signed commit to vote cards because we know that when people see their own signature pledging to cast a ballot, they are much more likely to follow through on that promise.
There's no question that midterm elections for first term presidents are historically difficult. OFA supporters all fully understand there are strong political headwinds against us. But President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been working hard and taking tough votes to turn the economy around and level the playing field for the middle class. And we're excited, and confident about the ground game we've built in Ohio and across the country. Over the next two weeks, OFA volunteers across the country are ready to show the President and his allies that we have their back.