Every DC area Democrat I know not already deployed to various swing states around the country headed to northern VA for doorknocking this weekend, so figuring that they had plenty of volunteers, I decided to go to an equally important place I knew had a whole lot less, PA. I have been worried about the closing gap in the PA polls, knowing that while the Obama campaign never took their field operation out of the state that they have still received generally less attention than VA, OH, and the other most hotly contested states. My wife and I drove up to the Gettysburg area because being the old Midwesterner that I am, I love small town doorknocking.
The campaign was having us do a combination of voter ID and GOTV to those who were Obama supporters and, as it always is, it was fascinating. I think everyone who is a fulltime in politics should make sure they go out and doorknock at least once or twice a cycle, because even though it isn’t scientific, you pick up a lot of important vibes about where people are coming from when you are knocking on their doors and talking to them in their homes. The towns we were in were blue collar, overwhelmingly white, modest single family homes with kids and dogs in most of them. There were lots of very Irish sounding names, which being a little bit Irish-American myself was pretty fun.
One interesting and surprising thing I ran into was the number of people we ran into who were genuinely undecided. Most polls are showing only 2-3% undecided, but we were finding a a lot of people in these towns hanging back, unsure who they were going to vote, and actually glad to talk it through with us and get more information. If a pollster called them and pressed them to say who they were leaning toward, my gut is that many of the people we talked would have said Obama, but it wasn’t a done deal. People weren’t thinking Romney gave a damn about the middle class or their lives, and liked Obama better for the most part, but felt like things hadn’t been very good so were still open to change. The pro-Obama pitch we were giving about the president fighting for the middle class (and Romney definitely not being for the middle class) seemed to be working.
We did run into some Romney supporters, almost all of them were men. There was a big gender gap in this neighborhood, as many of the women told us they were voting for Obama but their husband would be voting for Romney.
It really felt good to be doing this, like we were making a difference.
You know, that’s how doorknocking always feels to me. I realized this weekend that I had been doing it now for 40 years. When I was 12 years old, I went door to door in my Lincoln, NE neighborhood for George McGovern. It didn’t work, as Nixon won Nebraska that year with about 75% of the vote. But I was hooked and have been doing it in elections ever since. There is something about getting out there and looking people in the eye, talking about the election with them, that makes you feel like you are making a difference and doing your part in America’s democracy. We are lucky to love in a country where people can freely, openly talk to their neighbors about politics without fear of being arrested or shot at. To be a part of that kind of civic interaction gives me joy, makes me feel like I am a part of the American story.
So if you are trying to decide tonight or tomorrow whether to get off your butt and get involved in turning out the vote, go do it. Every state has close races, and you can always get on the phone and do calling as well. You won’t regret it, it will make you feel good, that you are doing your part in this great democracy we are living, that you are helping to make sure your choice for President and Senator and Congress gets in. And it matters: a few votes per precinct makes the difference in a whole lot of big elections. Make your voice heard, not just with your vote, but with your feet, your doorknocking knuckles, and your voice. If you need to know how to volunteer, go here.