May 24, 2013
Red State: Obama campaign's efforts to reclaim Florida
By Adrian Bono, special correspondent in Miami.
The presidential election is six days away and the nervousness is as palpable as the humid air of the Miami beaches. Traditionally a swing state, the stakes are too high for Barack Obama to consider Florida a lost cause.
As Mitt Romney campaigned in Tampa on Wednesday and offered an alluring speech about the benefits of trading with Latin America to try and capture the Hispanic vote, the Democratic Party’s community organizing service, Organizing For America, is working around the clock to secure the 29 Florida electoral votes that could define the election. And in a state that, despite going blue in 2008, traditionally votes Republican, their tireless efforts appear to be working.
Because even though polls suggest a Floridian disenchantment with Obama (and therefore a likely Romney victory), their industrious efforts to encourage early voting and casting of absentee ballots have the potential to hinder the race on a local level.
Florida is a complex state. Traditionally, minorities always lean towards the Democratic Party on a national scale, but the Hispanic community here is largely Cuban-American and their reticence towards any sort of appeasement with the Castro regime make them stand in line with the hardline, no-dialogue GOP strategy. Florida also has a high population of white retirees who move to the state for its amicable weather and usually vote conservative. So it's no surprise that in almost every election the state ends up in the color red.
And in a country with no mandatory vote and an Election Day that takes place on a Tuesday instead of a Sunday, it's in a race as tight as this one that every single vote counts. It was only in 2000 that the sunshine state became the center of global attention after it was clear that the battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore would be defined by the Florida voters. And the importance of an early vote or an absentee ballot is expressed in the urgency of the volunteers to recapture the enthusiasm of 2008.
Everyday, from 9 am to 6 pm, hundreds of team leaders meet with a group of local volunteers who have willingly given up hours of their day to describe the process of early voting to area residents or leave a hanger on their door informing the home dwellers of the location of their corresponding polling station.
At the Hialeah North field office in Miami, days-old pizza boxes, half-empty water bottles and discarded cereal bar wrappers join the numbered spreadsheets and Obama placards adorning the place’s computer desks.
It's busy night at the headquarters, as team leaders are getting ready to distribute the thousands of door hangers that will be left dangling of the doorknobs in the final days of the race. It is one hour after midnight but the place is as energetic as ever. Meetings are being held behind closed doors, with several campaign organizers strategizing their move early in the morning. Some of them have been awake for 20 hours.
As cell phones ring ceaselessly, a penciled sign taped to a column reminds everyone to "please, charge their cell phones" and it is rightly obeyed, as a dozen iPhones rest carelessly on a cobweb of cables on the floor in hopes of sparing anyone the indignity of being unreachable at a crucial moment.
"Where did you live before the campaign?” a staffer asks one of her peers while loading the boxes in a blue van. Their workload and commitment so intense, that it literally means suspending their entire life for as long as they are a part of it.
And it is working.
According to a internal memo sent by an adviser to the Palm Beach, Florida GOP campaign published by The Washington Post on Wednesday, the Democrats "are cleaning their clock," as Republican early turnout is lower than it was in 2008.
"The early and absentee ballot is now starting to look more troubling. Even if Romney wins the state, the turnout deficit in Palm Beach county will affect our local races," he warns.
Even a new poll released on Wednesday suggests that Obama and Romney are virtually tied in Florida, and that has the Obama volunteers even more fired up.
Like one of the staffers said while sorting out thousands of door hangers by electoral district at 2 in the morning: "There will be plenty of time to sleep on November 7."