Friday, November 2, 2012

"Can't talk, on the phone with Obama..."

A little more than a weekend separates Americans from today and election day. While early voting has been underway in some states for some time, Tuesday is the day the majority of Americans who choose to vote will do so.

As the homestretch morphs into the final push, the candidates are moving in and out of those few remaining states where both feel they have a chance. As noted in earlier posts, their blitz rallies are intended to mobilize their respective bases and convince those undecided or soft votes to vote for them.

Earlier today, I had the chance to "participate" in one of these final blitz rallies. No, I was not in Ohio or any other swing state.

I was on the phone, listening to an Obama campaign call with supporters. The call featured a member of the campaign team and another guy whose name escapes me. Oh yeah, President Obama.


Now, until today the closest I got to a something like this was last year when I was a listener on a Dalton McGuinty (remember him?) "telephone town hall" during the Ontario provincial campaign. In terms of the U.S., the closest I have come was listening to those infamous Romney 47% fund-raising dinner remarks on the web.

This time I was listening in on the Obama campaign team presenting supporters with their see of the race, followed by observations on the race from the President, and then a final wrap-up by the team.

The purpose of the call was two-fold. First to keep the supporters mobilized and to encourage them to vote (and vote early).  Second, to solicit funds.

While neither should be surprising, the real interest for me was in the messaging. Here are some highlights:

From the campaign team...

  • This campaign is looking like the campaigns of 2000 and 2004; they are extremely close and there is a lot at stake.
  • A reminder that in 2000 (in Florida) and 2004 (in Ohio), a few hundred thousand votes changed history, both times at the expense of the Democrats.
  • While Obama posted a strong electoral college victory in 2008, don't lose sight of the fact that the race was close with the popular vote seeing some 48% of voters vote Republican.
  • While the race is close, the campaign feels very good about where they are and the state of the race.

From President Obama...

  • You are not simply supporting a candidate, you are supporting a vision about America. You are supporting students who can now afford university, people who now have affordable health care, auto workers who have had their jobs saved. This is what I hear on the campaign trail.
  • You are fighting to preserve the progress we have made.  
  • We should win, but have to get our team out on the ground and ensure that we are not outspent.
  • We can only go as far as our resources take us, and right now the airwaves are being flooded with lies through Super PAC ads; lies which we need to counter.
  • Your support has got us this far and now we have to make the final push.


In terms of engaging the base, the lines did well to remind supporters about 2000 and 2004 - elections many Democrats feel were stolen from them. The reminder should promote engagement.

Those lines also were a caution against complacency. For all of the criticism from the right about the predictions and probabilities from the Nate Silver's of the world, the last thing the Obama team wants to see is a complacent base who feel it is won. Calls like this are intended to keep people focused and ready for November 6th.

I found as well that the narrative around "what is at stake" was well-struck. The President used his remarks to remind supporters about the impact they have had as Democrats, and as well as about (a) what else they can do if elected, and (b) about what they could lose if they are not.

Polling was also discussed and yes, for those who doubted, Ohio remains the focus. Interestingly, the narrative around the state of the race in Virginia left me feeling like they are not that confident there. Otherwise the commentary on polls and the state of the campaign was the first time I heard the Obama team say they "should win."

As for the fund-raising pitch, it was important that they tie it to the Super PACs and the recent onslaught of ads against the campaign. Consider this part of the call "fear-factor" time.

The subtext was something along the lines of the following: "After telling you what we have accomplished and what is at stake, I remind you of our foes and the resources they have, and I ask you to open your wallet one last time."

I suspect more than a few did.


So there you go. What started as a regular Friday turned into an unexpected and interesting experience for a politics watcher, and a small glimpse into a campaign that I have followed from (somewhat) afar.

The next three days will be frantic and then it will all be over. Ish.

I expect a long night on Tuesday and think we may have a few more ups and downs between now and when we know who arrives first after walking along the long and winding road to the White House.

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