01/06/2008 12:11 pm ET Updated 6 days ago

Phonebanking With John Edwards's Parents

I just got back from phonebanking for John Edwards. It was... a strangely uplifting experience. And historically I've hated phonebanking. A lot.

Here's some thoughts on the experience.

1. First things first, I guess -- John Edwards's parents came and phonebanked with us. I wish you could hear the audio on the clip below, because John's Dad was actually brilliant about it. He talked very softly, but his message was clear -- We're working people just like you. John knows what it means to work for a living and he'll do right by you. I filmed him doing two calls and he took both from Undecided to strong Edwards. He asks Ann, the supervisor -- "Should I be asking to talk to the spouse as well?" Ann points out that when John Edwards's dad calls you to ask support for John Edwards, that's probably covers the couple.

As Ms. Edwards is getting set up, she starts reading the script on the table, and then says "I think I'm just going to try and work the personal angle."

Yeah, says Ann laughing, I think that's a better idea.

2. People are undecided. Even some people that had made up their mind last month. There's an opportunity there.

3. It actually *was* about persuasion. All worker-bees come into campaigns the first time thinking what they are going to do in voter contact is persuasion. And they get demoralized when they find out a lot of it is people telling you they haven't made up their minds and not wanting to talk about why that is.

Me, I'm a seasoned operative (ha!). So I nearly fell out of my chair when I found almost everybody I reached on the phone list actually wanted to to hear a decent argument. Some loved John's domestic policy, but wanted to know what distinguished his foreign policy. Others wanted to know why he didn't support single payer health care. I found myself having fun, reaching into the parts of my brain where I'd stored all those facts.

4. The Edwards workers were up to the persuasion challenge. I could seriously just have sat in that room and listen to Ann, the supervisor, riff on any topic about Edwards. You want electability -- she's got it, not from a sheet, but from her head. You want trade? Let's talk about the Peru deal. Foreign policy -- did you read the WaPo article about Edwards's Bhutto response being the most presidential?

You could learn more about the candidate just sitting in that room than by going to a town hall forum. This was an informational exercise.

5. Scripts were starting points. I've gotten a lot of calls off a script. Everyone had a script in front of them here, but it was the intro to a larger conversation. It's the first 20 seconds, tops. And everybody was talking and riffing about subjects in a very conversational way. Everybody. They had the fact sheets and the policy books, but they'd really internalized it by this point.

6. Peter Espief, a State Rep from Keene, was there. (And he was good!) Here he is talking breifly about why he comes out to phonebank:

Personally, I like how he zeroes in on the "determination" aspect.

7. I don't know what the list filter was, but among the undecideds Edwards always seems to be part of the choice for them. The undecided configurations I bump into are between Edwards and Obama, and Edwards and Kucinich.

8. The people that don't answer the phone don't have voicemail. They have answering machines. We're being screened, my friends!

9. My brother is on the list I get, as an undecided. I call him anyway, and give him crap about being undecided. I hang up and the woman next to me, a student from Smith College, is looking at me in horror. "My brother," I say. "Whew," she says, "I was thinking that was an awfully harsh approach you were taking."