Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Turning NC Blue

I went to Charlotte this weekend to work for Obama. Stay in South Carolina, the local Democrats urged, but that's a lost cause, electorally: this is the reddest of red states, home of Pitchfork Ben Tillman and Strom Thurmond, where George Bush soared in the polls in 2000 by waging a notoriously vicious campaign against John McCain. I love to see the Palmetto State at least turn hot pink, but that's a dream for another day.

North Carolina -- well, there's always a razor-thin chance there for a Democratic victory because it has high-tech industry and better education -- or maybe just more left-leaning young voters.

Not long after I got there I paired off with another volunteer, Audrey, a petite UNC dance instructor who knew the ropes, and we went out intent on getting people to vote on Saturday, the last day of early voting, and to offer them a ride if they needed it.

Our first stop: Myers Park, the ritziest area of Charlotte, where the few people who were home clearly did not need a ride anywhere. The neighborhood was not without Obama-Biden yard signs, although the few people we actually spoke to tended to be for McCain -- including one woman who said her husband is for Obama and she hoped to do everything she could to make sure he never got to the polls on Tuesday.

From high to low: that afternoon we hit the poor side of town, where there were more people, and they were generally glad to see us. I managed to find two people who need rides today and took down their info. This was pretty much the extent of my success.

Also, we ran into some volunteers from Change to Win, a Washington, D.C.-based group, working the same street, so we pooled our data sheets to keep from overlapping. Lots of people hit the state from all over the East Coast, hoping to crack the Republican stronghold on the South.

It could happen: Virginia, N.C., Georgia, and Florida, at this writing, are all toss-ups. McCain leads in N.C. by 0.4 points, as opposed to an impenetrable 10 percent in S.C.

The day was kind of a small reminder of what low-level campaigning is like, and why it's hard to keep up your enthusiasm, because you never seem to get that far. Still, it's North Carolina.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon working the phones at the local headquarters: six hours killing my cellphone calling Fayetteville, Durham, Raleigh, and Boone. As someone who almost always hangs up on strangers from political campaigns, it was a little sobering to meet a number of people who were extremely polite and supportive, as well as a few for whom there was simply no pleasant, affable or charming way of saying "Hi, I'm working for Senator Obama's Campaign for Change, and --"

I called this one psychotic who took his dislike to another level, as he was so insistent on telling me how much he disliked my call that I had to hang up. Then he called back, to see how I liked being bothered by someone I didn't know, and rather eerily said this was no way to treat a fellow Scorpio. I'm guessing he Googled my name to come up with that tidbit of info.

I thanked him for calling, reminded him of his polling place, and suggested he pull the lever for Obama.

Then -- in a move that made me think of Robert Blake in Lost Highway -- he actually called again to replay a recording of my voice making the original call.

Beware, as the Roches used to sing, jerks on the loose.

The RCP spread has been jumping around all morning. Right now: Obama up by 7.5. It's going to be an interesting evening.

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