Obama Campaign Volunteer

It’s been a lot of fun volunteering for the Obama campaign. We have registered voters, made phone calls and gone door to door for voter canvassing.

I first got contacted by the Obama campaign some time in Spring 2007 for a donation. I refused, not because I didn’t support Senator Obama but because I thought it was too early for a Presidential campaign.

After the primary campaign was over, I signed up online to volunteer for the campaign and soon received a call to do voter registration with the GA-400 for Obama group. So one Saturday morning, I went to the Roswell Farmer’s Market where the group was meeting. Someone from the group told us the basics of how to register voters, went through the registration form etc and sent us on our way in teams. I was paired with two others to go to Sandy Springs.

We drove to a strip mall and stood in the parking lot in front of Whole Foods, asking everyone if they were registered to vote. The reaction we got varied from person to person. Most people just said they were registered and thanked us. Others just tried to ignore us. Some said they were Republicans or supported McCain. We also ran into some Obama supporters who seemed excited to see our Obama buttons and shirts. A few people were rude as well. One woman told us she had complained to the store management because our Obama paraphernalia was screaming to her or something. So we were asked by the store to move and we went to the next strip mall and registered some voters there. We also handed out a few voter registration forms to people who wanted them for someone else. Overall, it was a decent experience for about 3 hours of work, though we didn’t get too many registrations. That was expected since most people up here in north Fulton are already registered. It’s in downtown and south of the city that there are a large number of unregistered voters.

Georgia is a very red state — Kerry lost 41%-58% to Bush in 2004 — but the Obama campaign is the first Democratic Presidential candidate to compete here since Clinton won here in 1992. There has been a large number of staff and thousands of volunteers plus 40 offices.

So I joined the local neighborhood team here in Milton organized by Alex from the campaign staff. We have had several meetings to decide our course of action, recruit volunteers and have fun.

I have been to two more voter registration events. Once our local team took Marta to Five Points. As I got on the train, someone saw my clipboard and the voter registration forms and asked me for one so she could register. We actually registered quite a few people on the train ride. Then we stood outside the Five Points station and asked everyone if they were registered to vote. Later we tried to register voters in Underground Atlanta, but it was almost deserted there and we didn’t register anyone until the mall security asked us to leave.

On the Friday before Labor day, I was in Atlanta and so I joined a group registering voters in Westside. We registered a few voters, but someone stole a volunteer’s blackberry.

We have also organized several phone bank meetings where we call voters. We have called Democrats to firm up their support. We have called Obama supporters to ask them to volunteer. Also, we have called voters who could be persuaded to support Obama.

Last Saturday, we went door-to-door canvassing in teams of two. We printed out maps and voter lists and knocked on doors. We asked them about their Presidential preference and gave undecided voters some campaign literature about issues they might be interested in. It was a pleasant experience. Most McCain supporters were very nice to us too. Only one person told us not to come campaigning to their house.

While the Obama campaign is moving some staffers out of Georgia and into more competitive states, even more local offices are opening and the volunteer network is still in place and we are still registering voters, making phone calls and going door to door.

Volunteering for the campaign has been an interesting experience. I’ve met a lot of people who are passionate about politics. Also, I have been amazed at the way modern campaigns work in a systematic fashion with a lot of available data. I think Alex related an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln sorting voters into different groups based on their support for him and then targeting voters to move them to the next group which was more supportive, e.g. from supporter of other candidate to undecided or undecided to leaning towards Lincoln, etc. So this systematic approach has a long history, though now we have computers and databases. BTW, if anyone has a reference for this anecdote, please let me know.

Please do donate to the Obama campaign (US citizens and permanent residents only).

Obama for President

I support Senator Obama for President because he’s better on the issues and would bring out much needed change of direction for our country.

If you read my blog regularly, you already know that I support Barack Obama for President. Why do I support him? Because I support him on the issues; not on every single item but enough to matter.

Senator Obama has detailed policy papers on his campaign site. You can read his blueprint for change which provides the basics of his positions and plans, or you could go to each one of the issue pages and find lots of details:

Compared to the Republican nominee John McCain, there is a lot more detail in Obama’s issue pages.

Only Senator Obama offers a break from the last eight years’ disastrous policies. Senator McCain wants to stay in Iraq and start even more wars which would be worse than even the Bush administration. While Senator McCain has been confused between Sunni and Shia, the two major sects of Muslims, Senator Obama can pronounce Pakistan and Gandhi correctly, understands the region better and is humble enough to realize the limits of our knowledge. While McCain would lash out without thinking against Iraq, Iran, Russia or China, Obama has a smart plan to defeat the terrorists who attacked us on September 11.

Senator McCain has admitted that he doesn’t know a lot about economics while Senator Obama is focused on making life better for the average American. If you are worried about taxes, you shouldn’t be because you will be better off under the Obama tax plan compared to the McCain plan unless you are one of the super-rich top 0.1%. Also, David Leonhart shows that Obama is a pragmatic liberal with influence from the Chicago school of economics.

Senator Obama is somewhat new on the national stage and questions have been raised about his accomplishments. There is no doubt that Obama is a very intelligent guy and has risen fast due to his intelligence and a confluence of events where the American public is dissatisfied with the status quo and wants change. However, it’s not true that Senator Obama doesn’t have any accomplishments.

There [Senator Obama] was, working for nuclear non-proliferation and securing loose stockpiles of conventional weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles. There he was again, passing what the Washington Post called “the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet” — though not as strong as Obama would have liked. Look — he’s over there, passing a bill that created a searchable database of recipients of federal contracts and grants, proposing legislation on avian flu back when most people hadn’t even heard of it, working to make sure that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened for traumatic brain injury and to prevent homelessness among veterans, successfully fighting a proposal by the VA to reexamine all PTSD cases in which full benefits had been awarded, working to ban no-bid contracts in Katrina reconstruction, and introducing legislation to criminalize deceptive political tactics and voter intimidation. And there he was again, introducing a tech plan.

Or consider Obama’s efforts to get all police interrogations recorded when he was in the Illinois legislature.

Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced — by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama’s bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to “solve” crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that “Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics.”

The police proved to be Obama’s toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, “This means we won’t be able to protect your children.” The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought — successfully — to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.

By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.

Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Obama’s ethics reform bill in the Illinois legislature was called by the Washington Post as “the most ambitious campaign reform in nearly 25 years, making Illinois one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure.”

You can read a summary about Obama’s efforts in the Senate or go in detail (1, 2, 3).

Being a cynic, I don’t believe Barack Obama to be perfect. But nobody is. He is, however, the better candidate by far. Therefore, instead of just voting for him or contributing to his campaign, I decided to take some action and volunteer to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States.

I was going to write about my experience with the volunteering effort here in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, but it’s too long already. So that will be next week. For now, I do want to point out the campaign donation graphic on the sidebar. Please donate to the Obama campaign by clicking here.

Super Tuesday

Today is Super Tuesday with lots of primaries and caucuses. We urge everyone to vote for Barack Obama.

Today is Super Tuesday with lots of primaries and caucuses happening. If you live in any of the following states,

Primaries:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. California
  5. Connecticut
  6. Delaware
  7. Georgia
  8. Illinois
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Minnesota
  11. Missouri
  12. New Jersey
  13. New Mexico (Democrats only)
  14. New York
  15. North Dakota
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Tennessee
  18. Utah

Caucuses:

  1. Alaska
  2. Colorado
  3. Idaho (Democrats only)
  4. Kansas (Democrats only)
  5. Montana (Republican only)
  6. West Virginia (Republican only)

go out and vote for Obama.

Georgia is also voting today and we are supporting Senator Obama.

Since the opinion polls on the Democratic side show a close race and the delegates are awarded to candidates proportionately, I expect Senators Clinton and Obama to divide the delegates almost equally. Hence the Democratic nomination battle will go on.

On the Republican side, Huckabee should be able to do well here in the South. McCain is expected to do better overall since he has a huge poll advantage over Romney. Also a number of the Republican contests are winner-take-all which is expected to help Senator McCain.

Let’s go over the candidates still in the field.

Barack Obama is a great orator. I admit sometimes his poetic flourishes leave me high and dry but at other times he’s really good, for example, his speech at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. As for Obama being all talk and no substance, that’s not true at all. Read Hilzoy and Katherine as they write better about their support for Obama than I can and I agree completely with them. I also admit that I like wowing my Pakistani friends with Obama’s full name: Barack Hussein Obama.

Hillary Clinton is an okay candidate and she’s definitely much better than the Republicans. However, her concept of executive power is closer to Bush than I am comfortable with. Plus she has never really explained her Iraq war vote and I am all for punishing politicians for wrong votes. She has also surrounded herself with the hawkish elements of the Democratic foreign policy experts, all of whom were dead wrong about Iraq. As for her argument about experience, that’s just wrong. Let’s face it, if we wanted to vote for an experienced candidate, we would have voted for Biden or Dodd. The three Democratic frontrunners all don’t have much experience.

John McCain wants to stay in Iraq till hell freezes over and I ask is he senile? McCain also thinks that generals decide policy. May be as President, McCain will be working under General Petraeus. McCain is for war and for surges. All of that repels me a lot. On the other hand, McCain is the only Republican against torture and for immigration.

Mitt Romney was a moderate governor of Massachusetts. Then he saw an opportunity to be a real conservative for the Republican Presidential nomination. Now nobody knows what Romney stands for. My guess is if Romney becomes President (very unlikely), he’ll rule like the technocrat that he was in Massachusetts, but I might be wrong.

Mike Huckabee sounds like an average, decent guy. You can at least see some humanity in him. And his populist talk, though not backed up with any policy plans, is good too. But then he wants to bring the constitution in accord with the laws of God. And Huckabee is really ignorant too, with no policy shop in his campaign and no knowledge of international affairs at all.

Ron Paul is batshit crazy. He might be right about Iraq, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but he sees conspiracy theories (Trilateral commission, NAFTA superhighway, etc, etc) everywhere. And then there are the racist remarks in his newsletters in the 1990s. According to Reason, Paul didn’t write those newsletters. But his associates that did are still with him even now and Paul raised a lot of funds on the basis of these newsletters which went under his name. While in the debates Ron Paul has talked about the Iraq war and the constitution, he has campaigned a lot more like a conservative, focused on immigration, abortion, etc. See his anti-immigrant ad for example.

Go vote for Barack Obama!

New Hampshire Primary

Today is the New Hampshire primary. Here are some predictions and thoughts about the election. Go Obama!

Today is the first primary. Most polls in New Hampshire show Barack Obama and John McCain ahead among the Democrats and the Republicans respectively. Here are my predictions.

Democrat My prediction Actual vote
Barack Obama 43% 37%
Hillary Clinton 30% 39%
John Edwards 20% 17%
Bill Richardson 6% 5%
Dennis Kucinich 1% 1%
Republicans My prediction Actual vote
John McCain 35% 37%
Mitt Romney 31% 32%
Mike Huckabee 12% 11%
Ron Paul 10% 8%
Rudy Giuliani 9% 9%
Fred Thompson 3% 1%

Winning both Iowa and New Hampshire is going to do wonders for Senator Obama’s campaign. He already got a big boost from Iowa. This is going to make things tough for Hillary Clinton. Looking back at elections since 1972, there are only two instances when the eventual Democratic or Republican nominee lost in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Once in 1972 when Senator Muskie won both and George McGovern won the Democratic nomination. Then in 1992, local Senator Tom Harkin won in Iowa while the eventual Democratic nominee Bill Clinton didn’t take part. In New Hampshire, Bill Clinton came a strong second but Paul Tsongas won the primary. Can Senator Clinton repeat her husband’s feat? It definitely is possible, but I would say it’s going to be difficult. The betting markets seem to agree as Obama is now a 2:1 favorite for the nomination there.

There is also the matter of the African American vote for Obama. Consider South Carolina where half the Democratic voters are African American. In mid-December, Obama was winning barely half of this vote. This should definitely change with Obama’s wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. Let’s recall Jesse Jackson, a very different candidate but still instructive. In 1984 Democratic primaries, he came in third and won 77% of the African American vote. Then in 1988, he did very well, coming in 2nd and winning 11 primaries. He also got 92% of the African American vote.

UPDATE I: John “Thousand Years in Iraq” McCain has been projected the Republican winner by CNN.
UPDATE II: Hillary Clinton wins!

Primary Campaign

The primary season has been on for eternity, but the elections start tomorrow. I support Obama while Amber supports Richardson. On the other hand, I plan to vote against Giuliani.

The Presidential campaign this time around has been strange. It started really early, immediately after the 2006 Congressional elections. By Spring, I had received my first call from a campaign asking for a donation. I told them that I will not consider donating until the actual election year (2008). Then Barack Obama was on campus in April.

Now election season is finally starting with the Iowa Caucus tomorrow and the New Hampshire Primary on January 8. This is earlier than previous elections and a stupid idea to boot. I think the primaries should take place over 3-4 months in spring and summer, after which the candidates would still have 3-4 months of campaigning for the general election which is held on the first Tuesday of November.

Looking at the opinion polls for Iowa Democrats and Republicans, it looks like a close contest between the top three Democrats (Clinton, Obama and Edwards) and the top two Republicans (Huckabee and Romney). My guess is that it is anyone’s game among the Democrats but Obama will squeeze out a win followed closed by Edwards and Clinton in that order. On the Republican side, Huckabee should win easily. I am also very happy to report that the small man in search of a balcony (Giuliani) is going to end up last.

I already blogged about my impressions of the Presidential candidates, so you know that like Photodude I am an Obama supporter. Amber, on the other hand, supports Bill Richardson.

As for who to vote for, I am a fan of the idea of strategic voting. Since Job One in my opinion is making sure Giuliani does not win, so I might consider voting for whoever from among Romney, McCain or Huckabee seems the most likely to defeat Giuliani for the nomination. But our open primary isn’t until Super Tuesday, February 5. If Giuliani is gone by that date, then I can vote for the Democratic candidature of Senator Obama.

UPDATE: Go Obama! More than Obama’s win I am happy to report that Giuliani got only 3%.

Presidential Candidate Quiz

Now that the Presidential election is just more than a year away, let’s take a quick first look at the Democratic and Republican candidates.

I decided to take a quiz about the Presidential candidates and here is the result:

  1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
  2. Barack Obama (71%)
  3. Al Gore (not announced) (70%)
  4. Wesley Clark (not announced) (68%)
  5. Dennis Kucinich (67%)
  6. Christopher Dodd (65%)
  7. Hillary Clinton (63%)
  8. John Edwards (63%)
  9. Joseph Biden (61%)
  10. Bill Richardson (61%)
  11. Michael Bloomberg (not announced) (57%)
  12. Alan Augustson (campaign suspended) (54%)
  13. Ron Paul (48%)
  14. Mike Gravel (45%)
  15. Kent McManigal (campaign suspended) (35%)
  16. Elaine Brown (31%)
  17. John McCain (30%)
  18. Mike Huckabee (29%)
  19. Mitt Romney (29%)
  20. Chuck Hagel (not announced) (28%)
  21. Rudolph Giuliani (28%)
  22. Tommy Thompson (withdrawn) (26%)
  23. Newt Gingrich (not announced) (21%)
  24. Sam Brownback (18%)
  25. Tom Tancredo (18%)
  26. Fred Thompson (not announced) (16%)
  27. Jim Gilmore (withdrawn) (10%)
  28. Duncan Hunter (10%)

Not completely accurate, though I am a mild supporter of Senator Obama.

And here are my thoughts about some of these candidates.

Barack Obama says he is an agent of change, but he hasn’t come up with any policy that could be described as a major departure from the mainstream. He is a very good orator and seems to have decent positions on most issues but where are the winds of change?

Hillary Clinton is a deeply divisive figure so I am not sure how she would do in the general election, though she’s expected to do very well in the primaries. I think there are two major faults with her. One, she hasn’t really changed her opinion on the Iraq war. And two, she is probably the one Democrat with the most expansive ideas about executive authority. Hence she cannot be relied on to roll back the excesses of the Bush administration.

John Edwards is a generally likable politician who has offered a mea culpa on Iraq and is one of the few candidates to focus on poverty.

Can Joseph Biden please stop shouting during the debates? Thank you!

Bill Richardson has a lot of experience as a cabinet member, ambassador and governor. He is also one of the few candidates to commit to complete withdrawal from Iraq without leaving any residual forces. However, he is prone to gaffes every now and then and hasn’t really broken through to the first tier.

Let’s talk about the Republicans now, even though no Republican should be voted in even as a dogcatcher next year.

Ron Paul’s opposition to the Iraq war and some of his libertarian ideas interest me but then he does sound like the crazy uncle at times, sort of like Mike Gravel does in the Democratic debates.

John McCain has only one place to go: Down! What happened to McCain? A darling of the independents in 2000, he’s now stuck with not one but two unpopular policies: Immigration reform and the Iraq war. How did the Iraq war become his?

Mitt Romney sounds like such a fake. Was he always like that or is it a new thing? Did the Massachusetts voters elect him despite his fakery? Does his disowning of Massachusetts even convince anyone?

Tom Tancredo is after the bigot vote and thus won’t get anywhere because who wants to be identified as hater.

Fred Thompson sounds like the farcical version of Reagan or something. His acting doesn’t impress me and neither does his political persona or his positions.

Mike Huckabee is the religious politician and you know how that combo irritates me. So it speaks to the qualities of the Republican field that Huckabee is the one Republican who has impressed me a little. He seems to be a down to earth fellow who believes in Biblical literalism but does care about the poor and the ordinary.

And finally we come to Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. If you think we are screwed now due to Bush, wait till Giuliani becomes President. The guy is absolutely nuts. Every single New Yorker I know, even those who voted for him as mayor, thinks Giuliani should not be within a million miles of the White House. Listen, for example, to Rudy Giuliani going crazy over ferret ownership.