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Monday, May 5, 2008

A Report from campaigning in Ft. Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne, Indiana: A Report from the Front Lines

Robert Newby

Central Michigan University

The Indiana campaign is getting lots of help from Michigan. Michiganders for Obama have been quite active in the Obama campaign, even though there was no campaigning in Michigan. There are over 600 subscribers to listserv “Michiganders for Obama.” There may be as many as 10 to 15 postings a in a day. That is a lot of traffic. It comes in a variety forms: formal announcements (e.g., how the Obama campaign feels about the rules and Democratic party stuff); lots of YouTube sharing often about the excesses and distortions of the Clinton campaign; and key to what this commitment is about, what can we do to help get Obama elected? In all, it reflects an enthusiasm for the campaign.

As a consequence, Michiganders have been very connected to the campaign and to each other. One of the real benefits in being so connected is being able to organize campaign workers from far and away. This past weekend, a group of us from Mt. Pleasant, along with a couple of others from elsewhere in the state, traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana to do door-to-door canvassing. The campaign provided a van from Lansing. It was fun making the 3 hour drive and sharing our disgusts with Hillary. When we arrived at the headquarters on West Columbia, it was full of people, many from other cities in Michigan, including the Detroit area. Ann Arbor, South Haven, Kalamazoo, Kentwood, Southfield, and Midland were among the cities represented. We were not alone. There were volunteers there from Ohio and Illinois, as well. An interesting fact, for many, is that they have never been involved in politics before.

Our group got to a staging center in the southern part of the city. In appreciation for our being there, our assignment coordinator was in tears. We tried to explain we were there to help ourselves. We want this primary season to over. Nonetheless, her tears continued as she gave us our assignments. We completely covered all of Precinct 607, a largely working class and African American community with a few Latinos. The reception was great. The walking was therapeutic. On the other hand, there were a lot of vacant houses – just guessing 1 of 3 or 1 of 4. Overwhelmingly, the support was for Obama. I did have one African American woman who seemed to be in her 30s, proudly tell me that she had early voted – for Hillary. She did not explain and I did not argue.

Our plans to return to Michigan that evening were re-thought shortly after we arrived and found out that Barack was going to be in Ft. Wayne Sunday for a rally. Even though we had made no preparations to spend the night, it was unanimous: we are staying for the rally. So, come Sunday morning, it was back to work we did the cars in church parking lots in the morning and for the early afternoon we did some more voter information drops.

The gates at Headwaters Park were to open at 2:00p. We stopped work to head to the park. Upon arrival the line is blocks long and seemingly endless. We did get in. By now there are no tables and the food line was two-hours long. In fact, they stopped it to get set for the program at 4:00p. We were able to strategically place some chairs in-between the tables. The stay paid off. Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and Barack came on time!!! Michelle was great, as were the girls. She gave a dynamic introduction for Barack. But then it was time for Barack. He gave his stump speech.

He was great and the crowd loved him. The crowd was not only enthusiastic as a whole but that enthusiasm was cutting across races, ages, you name it, they were all there. I missed a most fantastic picture. Some times I just don’t think like a photographer. There was this very elderly silver-haired white lady who looked like a whole lot of money and who could hardly walk with her cane needing assistance was ushered to the front of the line.

Of course the real highlight of our day was our connecting with Obama as members of this crowd. Two of the group were almost on the front row. Two others us, including yours truly, got the shake his hand. I never thought I’d be able to shake Barack’s hand. It was a day to remember and I did take lots of pictures. I cannot vouch them since I have not seen them. Nonetheless, I took lots of shots just hoping. We loved it. And we are hoping we DO NOT have to go to Kentucky!!!!!

Following the inspiration of our working group leader and the urgency of these primaries: Angela Haddad, Blaine Stevenson and I (Central Michigan University) made up the core of our group. It was energizing. It was better than throwing invectives at the likes of Joe Scarborough for two days.

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