A glimpse into the life of an Obama campaign volunteer

The 2012 US presidential campaign isn’t only a series of politically-charged televised debates and fancy online campaigns. It’s also about real people picking up their telephones or hitting the streets to reach out to fellow-voters. With just two weeks to go before election day on November 6, our Observer gives us a glimpse into the life of a volunteer for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
In mid-October, Obama popped into a campaign office in Williamsburg, Virginia to deliver pizza and thank volunteers. The visit created a media frenzy. Yet grassroots efforts can sometimes get lost in the broader scope of the presidential election. More than a hundred miles away and far from the flash of photographers’ cameras, volunteers for the Obama campaign in Springfield, Virginia have been at it for months, canvassing entire neighbourhoods and calling on the phone.
Volunteers for the Obama campaign call voters in Springfield, Virginia.
While knocking on doors or dialling a number may not seem like that big of a deal, Obama’s “army of volunteers” were partly credited with helping him get elected in 2008. Even Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign has torn a page out of the president’s playbook, recruiting volunteers to help persuade undecided voters in key swing states like Ohio and Colorado.

"We have guidelines on Obama’s programme to help us address questions and issues that are important to voters"

Janet Bernhards is a local Obama campaign volunteer in Springfield, Virginia.
I’m responsible for keeping track of all the information we gather during our phone campaigns. I have a chart that’s divided into four different categories: those who are pro-Obama, those who are pro-Romney, those who are undecided and calls that have gone unanswered. The head of our team uses the chart to compile a list of people we need to call back, as well as a list of undecided voters to visit over the weekend. Our main priority is to target undecided voters and to avoid knocking on the doors of steadfast Republican voters. A lot of people express their opinion by staking campaign signs supporting one of the two candidates in their yards. I also keep track of people who have shown in interest in helping us, which was how I was recruited in the first place. It’s a well-organised operation. I put together a phone bank at home, and then I call the rest of the team to remind them to come over the next day. We then work together to call everyone on the list.
Campaign signs outside of a house in Springfield, Virginia.
You have to be very persuasive. Luckily, as volunteers, we have been trained. The primary goal is to see which candidate the person on the other end of the line intends to vote for. We also have guidelines on Obama’s programme to help us address questions and issues that are important to voters, like the economy or employment. For example, if I come across someone who hasn’t made up their mind about how they’re going to vote, the conversation is going to steer towards the question, “What are your main concerns?” I can then use an empathetic tone to explain what the president plans to do to tackle the issues raised.
“Regardless of what the polls say, the number of people who actually go out and vote is important”
Afterwards, we try to figure out if a voter’s work schedule and means of available transportation will make it possible for him or her to get to a polling station. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lost to George W. Bush in the state of Ohio by around 100,000 votes [Ohio is considered a key swing state in US presidential elections]. That translates to something like nine or 10 votes per district. If there had been people like me who had tried to encourage Democratic supporters to go out and cast their ballot, we could have changed history! Regardless of what the polls say, the number of people who actually go out and vote is important. During the last election, one of our main victories here in Virginia was that we were able to convince Democratic supporters who hadn’t voted in years simply because of the lack of information on voter registration to go out to the polls. I think the work we are doing, even though there are just two week left until the election, could have a serious impact. The outcome is going to be very tight, so every vote counts.
Video of a local campaign volunteer speaking on the phone with a voter who declines to answer any questions.
“The thing that worries me the most is to see that religion has become an important part of politics again”
I was already a volunteer for the Democratic party in Springfield during the last presidential campaign in 2008. I decided to do it again this time around after I learned who Romney had chosen as his running-mate [vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan]. The thing that worries me the most is to see that religion has become an important part of politics again, and that there are people who want to impose their beliefs and convictions on others. I’m also terrified by the prospect of a Republican president having the opportunity to name a conservative justice to the Supreme Court.
Post written with freelance journalist Sophie Alavi.


"Even... Mitt Romney's campaign..." using volunteers

The third paragraph piqued my interest. Perhaps this aspect of political campaigns is different in France. I would be genuinely interested to know the answer.
In the midwestern US, and I imagine in most parts of the country, volunteers for most politicians go from door to door, speak to the residents and leave literature. They also make phone calls for their candidate.
In our city, many of the candidates themselves go from door to door to introduce themselves.
So Mitt Romney's campaign wasn't "taking a page from" the President's volunteers. This was already a common occurrence here.
Is it different in France?
Thank you, and best wishes to all.

Why Obama ??

'The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America . Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.'

This is France 24, sir.

This is France 24, sir. Please keep your Fox News opinions on Fox News.


Most Americans who voted for Mr Obama are those suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome as the country was being held to ransom by Islamic captors led by an Osama which conveniently rhymes with Obama. A Black person with a non Islamic sounding name would not have been elected.