by Max Brantley
Weekend talk was that McCain had recognized there'd be no popular vote victory and that his only chance of success would be picking up swing states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
For the scene in Pennsylvania, we go on the jump to my daughter Martha, who's been spending her weekends there knocking on doors for Obama
Tom and I went back to Pennsylvania yesterday, this time to Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre). This is the heart of disaffected-Hillary voter country, which can be seen in the faded Hillary signs in windows as well as the Obama campaign's warm welcome to the legions of ex-HRC supporters streaming in from New York every weekend. They give us buttons that say "Hillary Sent Me!" and "Hillary Supporter for OBAMA" (which do get you in the door with quite a few undecided voters) and they don't seem to mind that we are a little late to their party.
Having been active during the primaries in several states, I can say with assurance that this is a phenomenally well organized campaign. Literally hundreds if not thousands of volunteers are coming in from neighboring non-swing states, and there are plenty of streaming in across state lines daily. Each field office has been knocking on average 3,000 to 4,000 doors per weekend (there is at least one office in every county; many have multiple offices). The staffers (almost all look college-aged) don't seem exhausted. There is generally plenty of cold pizza, soda, and bottled water to refuel people tired from walking streets. There is also a cat, Patches, who has adopted the field office....even though she technically belongs to a family down the street. She seems to like the campaign office better.
The staffers know -- and the volunteers know -- the polls are looking good in PA, but people with the campaign don't seem to totally trust them. That mistrust is borne out by the canvassing we did in Wilkes-Barre and in parts of the state that are better off (ritzy, B&B-dotted Bucks County). I know urban Philly and Pittsburgh have a lot of voters and will give BO big margins, but I think the campaign (despite worries of complacency) is still focused on winning women, strengthening the blue collar vote, and turning out youth voters and other key constituencies.
Apparently just as much sign theft happening in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties as there is in Little Rock - several families came by Wilkes-Barre HQ for new signs (I think they've stopped charging for them) just in the few minutes we spent getting our marching orders. Turns out, though, that most of the McCain voters manage to be pretty nice during the light of day -- no one screamed obscenities at us; only one woman slammed the door in my face; even the guy who told me he voted only on abortion said so quietly and respectfully and didn't call me a baby killer.
Among young people and young families, Obama support is strong, and I had some surprising and great conversations -- including with a 91-year-old guy who is dragging his neighbors and in-laws to the polls. He looked no older than 70. I had his age on my clipboard, so after we spoke for awhile, I said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask, but are you really 90?" He smiled and his eyes twinkled and he said, "I turned 91 yesterday".
On the other end of the spectrum, we spoke to a white girl living in a subsidized housing development who, while sitting next to her African-American boyfriend, said "I wouldn't ever vote for no black man. My mom would be so mad." We didn't detect any irony. So weird.
I will be going back Nov.1 for the four-day Get Out The Vote marathon...will try to send updates then too.