I was a precinct captain for Obama back in January, in my San Francisco neighborhood of Hayes Valley. At that time, I was walking my streets, trying to convince my neighbors that Obama was a better choice than Hillary Clinton. Once Obama went onto the general election, there wasn't much for me to do in my local area but ensure throngs of fellow liberals made it to the polls in November.
However, once the Republican convention ended, and I saw them inching up in the polls, I knew there had to be something I could do. I use to live in Nevada many years ago and I know the state very well. I along with my neighbor Karen decided to drive to Nevada to put our energy and my knowledge of the state to work.
We arrived at the makeshift Reno Obama staging area early on Saturday morning. The main office is located downtown but the local person said that so many Californians were flooding them every weekend that they had to move their staging operation to a warehouse of a supporter to accommodate the massive crowd of volunteers that showed up. There was easily over 1,000 of us!
There was so many in fact that they asked many of us to drive down to the Carson City office, which is about 30 miles away. We got there and also were overwhelmed at the sheer number of volunteers. They counted over 140 of us and only two were from Nevada! All the rest of us were from California. The local office was extremely well prepared. We were given the clipboards; complete with google maps, registration cards, early voting info and a list of about 40 names for us to canvass. Our list consisted of a mobile home park by the Carson City Airport called Comstock Park. Most of the folks we spoke to were elderly and very vocal about politics. We had one little old lady whisper in our ear that she was supporting Obama but was fearful that her neighbors would hear. We had another lively gentleman tell us that he was told that Obama would take away his gun which, we assured him was not the case. Most were happy to hear that they could vote early beginning on October 16th. They were more than happy to do so once we told them that it may make a difference in getting others to vote if the lines weren't that bad on election day or that it would free up resources to go after additional votes elsewhere.
When we came across the occasional McCain supporter, we were polite and thanked them for their time anyway. I then began telling these folks that regardless of the eventual winner, that person was going to need to work with the other guy to get anything done. When I asked a few McCain supporters if they felt their guy was ready to work with us once it was over, they all reluctantly agreed he wasn't. In fact when we had almost finished our rounds in the park, a McCain lady came running up to us and told us that she wanted to vote for the guy who was going to work best with the loser and that person was Obama. She said she thought long and hard about that question I had asked her and she couldn't get it out of her mind. She reminded me of my elderly mother and she felt compelled to explain that her late husband had always told her to vote Republican but that this year was special. She squeezed my hand in her and started to cry and that led me to break down as well in the middle of this trailer park in Carson City, NV.
On our latter half of the day, we went back to headquarters to get another replenished clipboard and list of names. This time instead we got the wealthy neighborhood up the hill overlooking the valley. We found this to be a much more hostile environment. A few of the houses we went to had a college age person living with mom and dad that was identified as a possible Obama supporter. The parents rolled their eyes at junior's insolence and said that they would pass on the info we left for them.
I do think we changed a few minds of some independent voters. One door in particular was answered by a man who said, that he was an Obama guy but, that we needed to convince his wife. She was undecided. She came to the door and we then spent the next 20 minutes talking about our feeling about Obama and our reservation about McCain. I believe she was genuinely pleased that someone had taken the time to knock on her door and consider her vote worthy of such effort. The husband's smile when we left spoke volumes to this fact.
At the end of the weekend, they estimated that the campaign had knocked at every door in Carson City! We also found out that we had registered more Democrats in the county than Republican for the first time in a generation. It's back to Nevada next weekend!