Archive for the ‘My Obama Minute’ Category

My Obama Minute: Ohio, Midday Report

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

I left the house early to start making the rounds at ten polling locations in Ward 8, including one site targeted by the party, statewide. The lines were moving very smoothly. I’d say the longest wait I saw was about 20 to 30 minutes.

After I finished my rounds, I spent the rest of the morning lining up volunteers, and helping my wife and mother-in-law, who were reporting raw voting data from the targeted location, to help us adjust our voter lists.

This afternoon, we continued canvassing, knocking on doors, working frantically to get out the final votes. My wife and mother-in-law drove one voter to the polls, and drove another man to the Summit County Board of Elections — to drop off his 91-year-old mother’s absentee ballot. Two hard earned votes.

The good news: It’s an absolutely glorious fall day. The perfect excuse to vote.

The bad news: I was just at the staging area when they announced our numbers, statewide, are low. You could feel the air go out of the room when we heard that. If the trend holds up, we could be in big trouble in Ohio.

I texted our volunteer coordinator to ask her how bad things are. She wrote back: “They are not terrible. just not where we need them to be. Hopefully more people will vote tonight, but that means long lines. The morning numbers were not good.”

People, it’s call-out-every-Who-in-Whoville time. We’ve been working too hard for too long to go quietly in Ohio. We have less than three and a half hours to get our supporters to the polls.

If you know any Obama supporter who still has not voted in Ohio — anyone — call them, text them, grab them by the scruff of their neck. Make them understand the fierce urgency of now.

My Obama Minute: I Voted

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Okay. So it was more like my Obama 80 minutes.

My wife and I got to the Job Center in Akron shortly after it opened this morning, and, already, the line was out the door and down the block.

Hundreds and hundreds of people, mostly black, but, also, ethnically diverse. Many, many students and twenty-somethings. But, also, a good number of elderly voters. Plenty of moms with babies in strollers. There was just this overwhelming sense of excitement. You had the idea that people wanted to vote, and, moreover, they wanted to talk about who they were voting for.

The woman in line in front of us was barely standing. She’s a nurse, a white woman, and had just gotten off the night shift at an elder care home. “This is cutting into my sleeping time,” she said.

She all but told us she was voting for Obama. “We need a change,” she said. She told me that if the politicians saw what she sees every day in the health care industry, they would understand that, too.

She was still sitting and waiting a little over an hour after we arrived when they called my name — my ballot was finally ready. She sat slumped over with her head in her hands, about ready to pass out.

When all was said and done, I voted for two Republicans — Greg Bachman, for county engineer, and Drew Alexander, for sheriff — both of whom came highly recommended. I voted to fund the Clean Ohio program. I voted (after a fantastic and still ongoing back and forth on my post, “Ohio State-wide Ballot Initiatives,” below) to cap the interest rate on payday loans. I voted against the casino. I voted for the sewers-to-scholarships program.

Oh. I voted for Barack Obama for president, and Joe Biden for vice president. I have a strong sense I’m not the only one.

My Obama Minute: Barack & the Boss

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

For a brief time this afternoon, I felt like I was in college again.

We left from Akron just after 2 p.m. for the Bruce Springsteen/Barack Obama rally in Cleveland, travelling in three cars, road-trip style. My wife and I, five friends, and a whole litter of kids. We parked in Ohio City and took the Light Rail into Cleveland. Arrived before 4 p.m.

When I’m 64, I probably won’t remember Bruce Springsteen’s set list.

When I’m 64, I doubt I’ll remember the specifics of Barack Obama’s speech.

I might not remember exactly where we stood, or what we spoke about.

But I will remember stepping out of Tower City Mall into the bright sunshine, and Meyer, our almost-four year-old, looking up and instantly spotting the Goodyear Blimp, hovering high above the Cleveland Browns football game.

I’ll remember holding Meyer’s hand, as he held his friend Sophie’s hand, and walking across the square toward the field, lagging behind, the buildings of the city rising up on both sides.

When I’m 64, I’ll remember how we spread the two blankets out on the concrete, near the veteran’s memorial — a mile or so from the stage, but near enough to a giant video screen — and surrounded by people wearing pins and shirts and hats, holding signs, eagerly awaiting a new tomorrow.

I’ll remember Meyer and Sophie and Seth and Martha playing Legos on the blankets, and eating Goldfish, as we shifted from foot to foot, waiting for the show to start. I’ll remember Baby Maren and Baby Jason, totally chill as the evening sky grew dim.

When I’m 64, I probably won’t remember exactly where the polls stood on this day, two days before the election.

But I’ll always remember the moment Bruce came out — “Hello, Cleveland!” — and how we picked our kids up and put them on our shoulders.

We wanted them to see. Whatever they could. Just a little bit farther.

I’ll remember holding Meyer’s ankles. I’ll think about how he flew his Lego airplane through the sky over my head, as Springsteen’s hand came down, and, at long last, he began to sing.

My Obama Minute: Mandy Patinkin

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Later that night, after canvassing, my wife and I went to dinner at Bravo, in Woodmere, with Mandy Patinkin, Susie Turnbull (the vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee), and several local Democratic leaders.

It was a lovely dinner, maybe 10 of us in all. For the most part, we steered clear of talk about polls; no one handicapped Ohio. Not even once.

In fact, the most memorable conversation, for me, had nothing to do with politics. Mandy Patinkin, who is in town as a volunteer for Barack Obama, was talking about the research he did, for his role as a physician on Chicago Hope. He had the opportunity to witness more than half a dozen surgeries — and he absolutely loved it.

What struck him most, he said, was the human body — on the inside — how incredibly similar we all are. We may be white, or black, or brown-skinned on the outside; we may be German or British, American or South African — but our hearts and lungs … our brains … are just about identical, to the untrained eye, from one person to the next.

On second thought, maybe the conversation was about politics, after all.

My Obama Minute: The Undecided Voter

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Spent almost three hours Saturday canvassing with my mother-in-law. We covered a three or four block stretch in the wedge between Merriman and Portage Path, down in the Valley.

Our numbers: 37 doors; 17 conversations; 5 early voting pledges. Plus, three or four volunteers. Sixteen of the folks we spoke to were voting for Obama; one woman was undecided.

It was actually quite incredible meeting an undecided voter the Saturday before election day. More so because I would describe her as politically engaged; on top of things. We spoke at the door for maybe ten minutes, with her young son tugging at her leg.

My mother-in-law pressed her: What issues are weighing heavily on you? What are your concerns about Barack?

She said that frankly, when it comes to Obama, she’s concerned that he would be a target for assassination.

My mother-in-law quoted FDR: “Remember, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

I quoted Barack: “Don’t worry about me — I have the best protection in the world.”

At some point, she confided in us that she’s been getting inundated with mail — to the point that she no longer reads it. As she spoke, she reached down, picked up a handful of mailers, and handed them over. It was immediately clear that the GOP had targeted her with some nasty, nasty stuff:

Obama Rewards His Friends With Your Tax Dollars   … from the Ohio Republican Party, with photos of a smiling Obama pointing at Rezko, Allison Davis, and Kenny Smith. Open it and learn that Obama helped Davis “obtain a $20 million taxpayer funded project” and that he helped Smith land a $100,000 “taxpayer grant,” adding that Smith is now under investigation by the Illinois attorney general. The kicker, in big letters at the bottom: Barack Obama. Not Who You Think He Is.

Another one from the Ohio Republican Party has grainy words: Obama … Political Rewards … Rezko … Kickbacks … Land Deals … Fraud … and then, in huge letters: Who Is Barack Obama?

A third read simply, Inexperience in this Time of Crisis above the words: Recipe for Economic Disaster. Those words are not in quotes, but they are attributed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/20/07. On the front is an unflattering picture of Obama beneath the Wall St. sign.

It’s incredible, frankly, that this woman was still on the fence.

We did all we could to tip her over. My mother-in-law has a wonderful, impassioned approach; she starts out with: “I’ve been following this man closely for a year, and I can tell you, he is exactly who we need in this country right now.”

Then we handed her an early voting slip, thanked her, and left her to decide.

My Obama Minute: Give, One Last Time

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Rev. Wright ads are now running across the country.

It’s a multimillion dollar ad buy by the National Republican Trust PAC, which will air through election day.

See the article, from Talking Points Memo, here.

We knew this day would come. And it’s coming at the end of what is easily the sleaziest, slimiest campaign of negativity that we have ever witnessed. If McCain wins this election, he will enter the Oval Office with his reputation in tatters, minus the goodwill of Congress and half the nation, including many in his own party.

Obama has spent millions keeping his largely positive message front and center, while defending himself from McCain-Palin smears. (I don’t intend to be hyperbolic here — it’s late — and I’m calling it as I see it. There is no equivalency between Obama calling McCain “erratic,” which is an accurate description, and the McCain campaign saying Obama “pals around with terrorists.” And in most every way that matters, McCain would represent a continuation of Bush policies.) Wednesday night’s infomercial was a part of Obama’s effort — an expensive part — and, by the way, 33.6 million people watched it. That’s 70 percent more than watched the fifth game of the World Series last night.

Only 52.4 million watched the first debate this year — so, a pretty good investment for Sen. Obama.

Hmn. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea afterall.

Obama has had to spend hand over fist just to stay ahead of the negative ads and campaigning. Now, recent news accounts indicate that his cash on hand, plus the Democratic National Committee’s cash on hand, is actually less, going into the final weekend, than McCain’s plus the RNC’s.

In other words: Obama, and other Democrats, need more, going into the final, crucial weekend.

So, for my Obama minute tonight, I gave two donations.

We gave to the Democratic National Committee, which directly helps Obama’s cause.

And we gave to Kay Hagan, who is running for Senate in North Carolina against Liddy Dole. For those who haven’t seen Dole’s latest ad, accusing Hagan (a former Sunday school teacher), or being “Godless,” it is one of the most despicable we’ve seen in the modern political era, prompting this powerful rebuke from Campbell Brown.

Just five days left. Give $5. Give $2.50. Or more if you can. Pick a candidate. Pick a cause and support it. It’s one of the ways we exercise our right to free speech in this country.

And now is the time to speak your mind.

UPDATE: From today’s NY Times. Looking for more evidence that Obama — not McCain — would run a tight, frugal budget? Please read this, about how the Obama campaign, while spending much more, has spent responsibly, even pinched pennies. In other words, when you do give to this campaign, your money is spent thoughtfully; it’s not wasted, on, say, clothing, or makeup artists. Here’s the kicker:

Mr. Axelrod [Obama’s chief strategist] likes to joke that at the Obama headquarters, if someone waves a hand in front of the automated paper towel dispenser in the men’s room, a section of paper towel is dispensed; wave at it again and a note spits out, “See Plouffe.”

Election Day Forecast, Akron, Ohio

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

For my Obama minute today, I went down to the local campaign headquarters, to get a briefing about my Election Day role. I’m going to be the “red team captain,” responsible for polling site operations in Ward 8, focusing on the targeted precincts, H and K. More on this later.

First, a bit of scene setting. The phone bank room was literally packed. Young, old, black, white. Sitting at a long table, dialing away. A long table packed with food, brought in by other volunteers, along the wall.

Next door, in the Democratic headquarters, it was also a hive of activity, with about a half dozen people putting Obama-Biden yard signs together.

I brought in some buttons that say “Barack Obama” in Hebrew. No sooner had I put them on the table than a local Ecumenical minister, a black man, maybe in his 60s, flashed a huge, gold-capped grin, and picked up a pin, admiring the Hebrew letters. Then he reached out, and, without saying anything, we shook hands. A black Christian minister from Akron, and a Jewish writer from Jersey.

Something’s happening here.

As I was walking out, I glanced up at the wall. The headquarters walls are crammed with posters and signs and newspaper clippings and maps, outlining territory, and letters from school kids — crayon drawings — along with a few photos of Barack and his family. But there, by the door, was a single sheet of people with the five-day forecast. Written on top: “Elect Obama, Rain or Shine.”

It’s been miserable here in Northeast Ohio this week. Snow, hail. Wind. Threatening to hit 32 degrees. When Dan Shapiro was here the other day, he jokingly (but pleadingly) said: It’s not going to be like this on Election Day, is it?

Democrats need turnout on election day. And the better the weather, the better the turnout.

Just today, the weather turned. Bright sunshine. Cool, but crisp.

According to that piece of paper in the local Akron office, Election Day will be mostly sunny, high of 59, low of 44, with a 10 percent chance of rain.

We’re waitin’. Waitin’ on a sunny day.