March to The Battleground
Saturday was a typical clear early autumn day; cool, crisp and damp as the early morning saw a dedicated group of Maryland for McCain campaign workers heading south to Fairfax, Virginia, to help the cause in that highly targeted state.
Electoral politics is a zero sum game, first person to the magic number of 270 claims residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Everyone knows which states are red (solid Republican) or blue (solid Democrat) and everyone understands the mathematics of addition. So, it becomes the gray or “target states” where presidential campaigns dump tons of money and countless hours of volunteer effort, just to win electors.
Our neighbors to the north and to the south are targeted prizes within the Electoral College. Both are in play for either candidate. Maryland, being part of McCain’s Mid-Atlantic Region is actively helping the Old Dominion State secure the McCain vote.
Virginia has been in the Republican column every presidential race since 1964. The Virginia GOP is proud that their 13 votes have previously been part of the backbone of electing Republican presidents, and they stubbornly do not want their streak to end, so they have asked for reinforcements from The Old Line State.
We arrived at the Fairfax Victory Headquarters and received orders for the day. My group was assigned a very nice neighborhood just outside of Fairfax City. Working in pairs we knocked on doors for three hours, asking the seven questions on our voter survey and leaving literature; classic voter identification door-to-door work.
Our section was highly McCain oriented. We gathered information on our bubble sheets, chatted about Senator McCain and pushed on to the next doorway. The few Barack Obama fans we ran into were polite and, naturally, we were, too. After all, the south is supposed to be genteel.
Our results showed a lot of McCain support and little support for any candidate running for Senate or House of Representatives. It also showed that most people referred to themselves as “more independent,” rather than identify with either major party. So much so that if projected throughout the entire state “independents” would outnumber all other political parties at least two to one.
Our question as to the most important issue was dominated by the economy, with national defense being second; healthcare and education were far distant in third and fourth place. Overall people were very polite. We gathered information for McCain’s Virginia campaign to make follow-up calls and had some good exercise on a beautiful day.
What we learned is this – people are tired of politics as usual in Washington and they will tell you. There is a huge buzz for change. There was little to no support – or even interest – in senatorial or congressional politics, almost as if it were totally a lost cause. Lastly there was limited pride in party politics…either party.
This desire for change, loss of political and party pride is only exacerbated by negative ads and inundation of political junk mail. Frankly, there is no one who has ever thanked me for – or told me – they appreciated negative political junk mail or advertisement – ever.
These homeowners did seem to enjoy a personal visit, which is usually the case while doing voter identification door-to-door. They enjoy when a “real” volunteer makes a personal call. It’s what is lost in political marketing that candidates need a personal volunteer sales force.
Republicans in Maryland are working a low-dollar campaign, compared with Virginia; but our personal touch with phone calls and door knocks has been selling well. We have developed a sales force that understands outreach and we are sharing our volunteers.
In another 10 days Maryland will march an army of volunteers across the Potomac. They will each smile, carry a clipboard and a stack of literature. I feel sure the welcome will again be warm and the Virginia voters friendly, as once again Maryland is called to play on foreign soil in the electoral game.