Campaign volunteers for President Barack Obama in Baltimore have been traveling to Pennsylvania to campaign on his behalf. This weekend, they will join D.C. Obama volunteers in Virginia to gauge support, lobby undecideds and infrequent voters.
Members of Baltimore City Women for Obama have spent each Monday night for the last four months calling voters in Pennsylvania. Volunteers have traveled to Harrisburg, Pa., in a bus on several Saturdays and others have visited York, Pa., driving themselves or carpooling.
“We know Maryland is already blue, so we are going to Pennsylvania and Virginia, which are so pivotal in this race,” said Baltimore Obama volunteer Wanda Watts. “Those [voters] are the ones we have to sway.”
The Baltimore and D.C. volunteers are among legions in the U.S. who are moving outside of their local areas to campaign. As the election draws near, volunteers for Obama and contender Mitt Romney are stepping up their efforts, converging on swing states in droves to try to bolster support for their respective candidates. Both candidates are spending exhaustive hours lobbying voters in the important battleground states like Virginia, where both Obama and Romney were stumping this week.
In the District of Columbia, more than 1,500 supporters of Obama packed a synagogue in Northwest Oct. 17 to plan strategy to win over potential voters in Virginia. D.C. Democrats working on a campaign called GOTV, or Go to Virginia, made plans to visit various locations between then and Election Day. The volunteers believe their door-to-door and phone campaign in the Old Dominion will generate sizable support as Election Day draws near.
“We need 1,000 volunteers to knock on 90 doors each this weekend,” said Sara El-Amine, Virginia’s GOTV director. In 2008, “Obama won Virginia with an average of 94 additional votes in each precinct than his opponent and we don’t want to lose that edge [in] this election. We registered 140,000 new voters who we need to keep enthused and engaged.”
In Baltimore, volunteers hope Obama’s impressive performance in the last two of the three presidential debates will bolster support among undecided voters and even urge some Romney supporters to change camps.
“From my eyeview, I’ve noticed people changing,” Watts said. “We’ll be able to tell after the phone calls.”
Watts, a public relations and marketing professional, said campaign workers have been using her office at the Finn Group, where she is an associate, to make calls to voters from 6 to 9 p.m. one day a week.
“We try to find out who they are supporting and the issues that are most important to them,” she said. The information is then reported back to the Obama campaign electronically.
The D.C. GOTV volunteers said they have contacted 2.6 million people in Virginia by phone and that 3.5 million volunteer recruitment requests have been made. They have knocked on more than 1 million doors and held 600,000 conversations about their candidate.
“This is a peoples’ campaign,” Michael Strautmanis, deputy assistant to the president and counselor for strategic engagement to White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, told the crowd at the synagogue. “We need to win Virginia…Please help us.”
Volunteers said their efforts are not just about getting out the individual voters.
“We know that President Obama needs 270 electoral votes to win,” El-Amine said. “We also know that his opponent cannot win without Virginia. It’s not just the popular vote, we need those electoral votes. D.C., let’s win this election. Are you fired up?”
The synagogue crowd responded with a resounding, “Ready to go!”
Volunteers said the movement makes them feel part of a traditional effort like the ones held in the South decades ago to encourage people to register to vote in the face of intimidation. Adam Barr, 30, of Northwest D.C. said he has traveled to South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin campaigning for Obama’s reelection.
“This has been a great experience,” he said. “I’ve met more people from across the country than I ever dreamed possible. What I found out is that people just want their voices heard.”
Jon Carson, who served as national field director for Organizing for America (OFA) in 2008, said the race between Obama and Romney is too close for volunteers to relax.
Watts said she is not panicking yet, despite the recent poll data that shows that Romney may have narrowed Obama’s lead over him.
“I’m somewhat concerned, but I’m not dismayed over the polls because polls don’t vote, people do,” she said.
Volunteers said Maryland and D.C. residents who are interested in assisting the Obama campaign should go to https://my.barackobama.com/page/s/come-to-virginia for information.
“Come to Virginia this weekend,” the website said, adding, “Talking to Virginia voters in this final stretch is the most important thing you can do to help President Obama win.”
The AFRO’s Valencia Mohammed contributed to this report.