Monday, November 03, 2008

History in the Making

I had the opportunity to head down to New Hampshire a little over a week ago for some campaigning and, I must say, it was a great experience. If you imagine every movie you’ve seen about campaigning in New Hampshire…that’ll give you an idea of what it was like. I don’t know any other way to describe it.

Walking door-to-door in rural New Hampshire, with the leaves changing colour and the weather just perfect for door knocking was certainly a nice change of pace from canvassing apartment buildings in downtown Toronto – you really got a small town USA feel. At one point we were being briefed about the canvass in a giant garage a volunteer had loaned to the campaign, when two men carrying hunting rifles walked through, on the way out to do some target practice - making phone calls to supporters with gunfire in the background was a campaign first for me…mind you, I’ve only been through one election in Toronto.

It was also easy to pick up on the famed independent mindedness New Hampshirites (New Hampshirans? New Hampshies?) are known for – I walked up a driveway with 6 broken down cars on the lawn and giant US flags flying from the roof and found a 55 year old shirtless man at the door…ready to vote Obama. So much for stereotypes, eh?

As for the campaign organization itself, everything was top notch. They’ve been at it for two years, so most of the vote had already been identified. They’d also managed to build up an impressive volunteer base, to the point where some small towns had over 150 volunteers coming by the office a day. The campaign was also effective at using the less hard-core volunteers however they could – one thing I really liked was their idea of having supporters send hand written postcards to a dozen of their neighbours explaining why they were voting for Obama.

But, above all else, what made me the most envious was their use of databases. Now, I know that most people don’t get turned on by political databases, but if you’re at all into politics, it would be hard not to be at least a little excited by this one. Every voter. Every volunteer. Their voting records from the last two elections and primaries. Every bit of demographic information you could possibly want to know about them. As a result, they could micro-target to a degree you just aren’t able to on most Canadian political campaigns.

So I had a fun weekend, learned a little about campaigning and, best of all, I now have an apartment full of Barack Obama posters, every novelty pin you could want (actual buttons: “bird watchers for Obama”, “couch potatoes for Obama”, “kayakers for Obama”), and even a bit of swag the McCain office was nice enough to give me (actual button: Sarah Palin holding a gun, with the words “Read my Lipstick: No More Liberals”). Most importantly, when I watch the results roll in, I can feel like I was a very small part of what will be a historic night in the United States.

And as for tomorrow? I’m going to say 379 electoral college votes for Obama: Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, New York, Massachussets, Conneticut, DC, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Deleware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Misourri, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pensylvania. I’m also gonna predict 8 Senate pick-ups for the Dems (VA, NM, CO, AK, NH, OR, NC, MN) and a lead in Georgia, which they’ll lose in the run-off.

Sure, these predictions aren’t worth much, but I did beat Paul Martin in a Super Tuesday pool I won back in February. So, you know, these picks can be considered to be at least as good as what you'll get from your average former Prime Minister.

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