One of the closest election battles this year in the United States is in the state of Nevada.
While the population is a mere 4 million and the state is allocated only 6 delegates to the Electoral College, the Silver State could decide who the next President of the United States is.
Having been involved in the last 11 Federal Elections at home, I was curious on the differences and similarities between Elections in Canada and U.S.
Having been given the opportunity to go to Las Vegas, I quickly signed up to volunteer with the Obama Campaign – Organizing For America (The Democratic Party closely resembles the party I belong to in Canada)
Here is what I’ve seen so far.
Las Vegas is situated in Clark County. Along with the Cities of North Las Vegas and Henderson, this area represents the majority of voters in Nevada.
There is a very large Hispanic community in Clark County, with most Latinos living in the eastern part of the county. The African American Community also represent a large part of this area. The western part of the area (called Summerlin) contains a very large, mostly white, upper middle class population.
The rest of the State is made up multi-generational Nevadans, white, highly religious – Christian and Mormon and very conservative.
Las Vegas has seen the highest unemployment rate in the country. The rate is currently 11%, down from it’s high of 14% two years ago but still one of the highest in the country.
Las Vegas also saw some of the most dramatic drops in home values in the U.S. Thousands of homes were foreclosed on and many are currently “under water” in regards to their mortgage. (“underwater” meaning the mortgage is much higher than the current value of the home)
It is not uncommon to see hotel/office structures that were partially completed still sitting half completed 4 years later.
President Obama won this State in 2008 quite handily by 12 %.
The Campaigns could not be any more different.
The Romney campaign, on the surface, looks like any campaign that has been run in the last 50 years.
Due to a very public and bitter fight between the Romney team and the Ron Paul team in the Primaries last year, the Nevada Republican Party has not been helping much with the Romney Campaign. This because the organization was taken over by the Paul team earlier this year and they literally changed the locks on the Republican office not involving themselves with the campaign.
I’ve seen many people with “Ron Paul – A founding Father of the Tea Party” T-shirts around town.
This resulted in the Romney Campaign having to start from scratch. In all of Clark County, the Romney Campaign has only one office. This at the very edge of western Clark County in Summerlin, taking the empty space in a strip mall in front of an “In ‘N Out” Burger Joint (fantastic Burgers by the way, too bad we don’t have them back home). I’ve also heard that the key people of the local campaign are actually volunteers from nearby California.
In contrast, the Obama Team has 13 offices in Las Vegas. Along with the formal offices, regions are divided up and serviced by “local neighbourhood operations”. The one I was assigned to is actually the garage of a volunteer’s house. The garage door is open all day, desks are manned, flyers, posters and poll kits are organized and handed out to the volunteers.
The neighbourhood operations are setup so that volunteers usually canvass in the areas where they live and many times actually know the people who live behind the doors their knocking on.
What is similar between this campaign and our last federal campaign is the goal of the local volunteers. Identifying people who are your supporters and then making sure they vote, either in the early voting days or on Election Day this Tuesday. The use of phone poll services using live people and Robo calls are the same, the information sheets given to canvassers are similar, the process of knocking on doors is the same and the strategy of getting people to the polls is exactly the same.
What is different is the amount of resources available and how they are used. When I informed the office manager that in Canada we have just 5 weeks to identify our voters he looked astounded telling me that they have been identifying for over one year. He looked even more shocked when I told him that in the last local riding campaign I was involved with our budget limit was approximately $100,000. The spending for the Presidential and Senate races will come close to $100,000,000 in Nevada alone.
Contact with voters is mostly electronic, brochures are scarce; I’ve only seen 10 election signs for any candidate in the areas I’ve canvassed. Social media is an everyday tool, Election ads are being received by Smart phones on a regular basis. This, along with constant TV and Radio Ads, ensures that you’re hearing from the Campaign and/or the President on a regular basis.
This strategy seems to be working. The people who voted early has equalled close to 56% of all eligible voters. Even more impressive is this total is 65% of the number of actual voters in the 2008 campaign. The amount of registered Democrats who voted early is 50,000 higher than the amount registered Republicans that have voted so far.
The local Romney Campaign’s volunteers look very similar to each in terms of ethnicity and economic status. I realize this is a generality, but on the surface this is what comes to mind immediately.
You easily see the difference in the types of volunteers with the Obama team. I have seen people wearing buttons declaring “Latinos for Obama”, “Asian Americans for Obama”, “African Americans for Obama”, “LBGT for Obama” and “Veterans for Obama” to name a few.
Saturday – Day One
I arrived late Friday and went straight to the neighbourhood office. It was agreed that I start the next day, Saturday.
With a poll kit in hand I canvassed various polls in Summerlin. The area is beautiful, right under the mountains at Red Rock Canyon. To call the area Breathtaking does not do it justice. The sun was shining and it was a warm 80 degrees outside (you can do the translation into Celsius)
The homes looked expensive and like they were built within the last 10 years. Immaculate parks are everywhere, the boulevards contain desert fauna and palm trees.
On the surface it looks like the recession passed this area by but when you knock on some of the doors you see this isn’t the case. Many homes had lock boxes on the door with what looked like days of mail littering the front stoop. The people who lived there either lost that home or abandoned it. Easily 10% of the homes on my list fell into this category
Being a Saturday, a lot of people were not home. Of the people who were home, all were very friendly and promised to vote for the President on Tuesday. I had an interesting conversation with one lady who did affirm she was voting for the President but reluctantly. When I asked why, she clearly stated that she liked Mitt Romney but was terrified by the Tea Party. We’ll take the vote, thanks!
4 hours later and very tired, I returned to the office. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t connect with more voters but the office manager did point out that these lists were some of the final ones and the areas with the large identified voters have been completed already.
Sunday – Day 2
Was sent to the most north western portion of Clark County. You are literally in the desert surrounded by mountains of rock. This area looks like the last of the subdivisions built before real estate crashed.
Went into a gated community made up of new, smaller, modest, attached units all centred around small cul de sacs. The people were mostly either white and elderly or Hispanic.
Again many people were not home, this being a Sunday.
The reception at the door in this area was not as positive as yesterday. People were complaining at the constant “interruptions” they have been getting from phone calls or people knocking at their doors.
Found out that the campaign sent canvassers to this very area yesterday, knocking at the same doors, talking to the same people. I apologized profusely and left.
In one cul de sac I was met by a few elderly people who were sitting in their garage. At first their reception was not “warm”, especially when they saw my Obama pin I was wearing. They were sure to tell me that they all voted for Romney.
I broke the first rule of canvassing. As soon as you know that they individual is not voting for you, you politely thank them and quickly leave. I was very curious as to why they voted the way they did.
Their first reason is that “Mitt” will save their Medicare. What? Well of course I thought, billionaires are always concerned about saving any form of socialized medicine.
Second, Obama drove the U.S. into recession. Again, what? Apparently, the previous Bush White House had nothing to do with. Another thing I got wrong.
Finally, Romney will restore the Power and Respect of the U.S. in the rest of the world. Double What???? I thought it was President Obama who took care of Bin Laden and ended the war in Iraq. I have to start watching FOX News.
I thanked them for their time and made the long trip back to the garage, I mean “office”.
I sarcastically thanked the office manager for sending me into that coyote and scorpion infested area, which didn’t scare me as much as the reception I received from some of the people there. He continued to laugh!
On to tomorrow.
By: Vito Sgro