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This week I attended my local Democratic Executive Committee meeting. I also prepared a phone bank list and script for Beverly Ledbetter, our candidate for Florida House District 38, and worked in our campaign office on Friday afternoon. There we made calls for Amanda Murphy, our candidate for Florida House District 36. We’re running a coordinated campaign and our scripts for both Beverly and Amanda include information on Erika Remsberg, our candidate for county commission.
This year we’re focusing on Democrats and persuadable third- and non-party voters who did not vote in 2010. Midterm turnout is always a challenge for Democrats, in part because of what one voter said when I called: “I only vote for the president.”
I asked why, and she said the president was the most powerful man in the country. If he couldn’t fix a problem, she said, then no one else could either. I explained that many of the problems that affect us most directly are addressed by state and local government. And even where a federal program does try to address an issue, states can sometimes block those efforts, as Florida Republicans have done with Medicaid expansion and high speed rail.
“Then the president should tell them to get out of the way,” she insisted. “That’s why I vote for him.”
It’s all but impossible to persuade someone who is impatient to get off the phone. Had it been a face-to-face contact, I would have pressed the issue more. Instead I thanked her for her time and repeated our candidates’ names, “in case you change your mind and want to join your neighbors at the polls.”
“Oh, I’ll definitely vote for them,” she replied, “if I vote.”
Hers was not the majority response. Many of the skipped-2010 voters that I’ve talked to said they will vote this year, and some enrolled to vote by mail. Any phone bank or canvassing session has contacts that disappoint, and contacts that energize. My most energizing contact of the week was a young woman who said “Wow, we have Democrats running this year? Cool! Who are they?”
I heard her scribbling their names as I gave the candidates’ information and the pitch to vote by mail. She wasn’t at her computer, so I gave her the number to enroll by phone. “Thanks so much!” she said. “I’ll sign up as soon as we say bye.”
We did … and I hope she followed through.