Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Crisis '08 HQ: Barack the Vote!

11:15 p.m.: You've got to see this Obama operation at the grassroots level to really understand what's involved, and how they've been able to accomplish what they've accomplished. There are four guys and a girl -- the oldest is 28 -- sitting at laptops in a grocery store cafe, typing in data about their phone banks, their canvassing, and other campaign activity. Some are paid staff, some are volunteers.

This is the team for the Eastern Panhandle region of West Virginia. Some of these people have already worked in several states during this campaign. They've got the assistance of a 54-year-old Martinsburg volunteer.

Just got off the phone with Tom Bowen, national press guy for Team Obama. Imagine that -- a regional team member gets nervous about a reporter hanging around, sends an e-mail to headquarters, and next thing you know, the national press guy is on a cell phone talking to the reporter.

I mention to Tom that it's pretty impressive that they've got such an operation in a state where Hillary's expected to win by a heavy margin.

"Obama's philosophy is organize everywhere," Tom says.

"That's Old School," I say, and explain I'm not here to play "gotcha." He seems reassured.

The midnight deadline for the staff's data dump is approaching, and it looks like we're not going to have final results for Indiana until tomorrow morning. So I'm going to pack it up. Obama won by double digits in North Carolina; looks like Hillary's going to squeak by in Indiana.

It's been fun watching the campaign team work at the grassroots level. Wednesday, Chelsea Clinton's coming to nearby Shepherdstown. Should be quite a show. Whether or not Obama comes to the Panhandle, and when, is yet to be determined. But Tom tells me I'll be the first to know.

10:58 p.m.: I am in the cafe of a Martin's grocery story in Martinsburg, W.Va. Team Obama (WV Panhandle Div.) is now operating here, rushing to meet a midnight deadline to file their data of the day's activity. This grocery story has the best WiFi connection in town, they say.

The guy who's streaming live MSNBC says it's 86% of precincts reporting from Indiana, now 52% for Hillary, 48% for Obama -- closer than my prediction. Obama's outperforming the polls.

9:31 p.m.: They're running us out of headquarters here, am relocating.

9:11 p.m.: Obama's acceptance speech begins . . .

"This is your victory!"

Gracious: "Game changer ... congratulate Senator Clinton on what appears to be her victory in the great state of Indiana ..."

Obama goes right at Hillary's "electability" argument -- calls North Carolina "a big state, a swing state."

"Today we stand less than 200 delegates away . . ." (not according to Hillary's math, but ...)

"Pundits have suggested this party is inalterably divided . . . I don't believe it. . . . This election is about you, the American people."

"This fall we intend to march forward as a united party ..."

Give him this, the guy does "the vision thing" real good. He sounds good doing the lofty and inspiring phrase.

Something else: He's not afraid to repeat the same anecdotes and the same phrases he's been repeating for months. Obama remembers that, for many Americans, tonight is the first time they've actually sat down and listened to him speak.

Obama is Reaganesque in that sense. Reagan did the after-dinner speaking circuit for years and resisted the temptation to innovate. Find what works and stick with it. If a line gets a good reaction, use it again in your next speech. By repeating the same themes over and over -- rehearsing his lines, as it were -- Reagan developed the timing and rhythm of a seasoned performer.

Watching Obama deliver this speech, you see how he's got it down cold.

"That's the America I love. That's the America you love. That's the America we're fighting for in this election." (The crowd goes wild.)

One problem: Obama's also got that Clinton thing where he starts speaking and goes on forever until the audience gets tired, bored and irritated. A good election speech should be no more than 10 minutes, and Obama's already gone more than 15.

9 p.m.: Greetings to Michelle Malkin readers from beautiful West Virginia, where an Obama phone bank is going on while they watch the returns on MSNBC. It's interesting to hear half the phone conversations. One phone banker just said: "Watch your language, sir!" I looked up and caught the eye of the field organizer, who shrugged: "It happens."

The size of Obama's North Carolina win is pretty impressive -- apparently much bigger than the 10-point win I'd boldly predicted this morning. And the Obama campaigners are still holding out hope for Indiana, where the margin has closed to 6 points -- Hillary 53%, Obama 47% -- with 67% of precincts reporting.

8:54: Sorry for the long delay, but I had some work to do over at the American Spectator blog. Had a long conversation with an Obama field operative here who said he was surprised by the level of Ron Paul support here in West Virginia. Meanwhile, back in Indiana . . .

With 59% of the Indiana vote counted, the margin now is Hillary 54%, Obama 46% -- the exact margin I called in my predictions early this morning. But my friend, the Obama operative, says that the late returns will be stronger for Obama, so the margin is expected to narrow. MSNBC says the state is still too close to call.

Here's a photo of Dana Stewart, an enthusiastic Obama supporter, doing a "honk-and-wave" on Queen Street in Martinsburg:

7:35: A passerby just stopped by the front door of Obama HQ (where I'm liveblogging the results tonight) and asked about the election returns. Told that Obama had just been called the N.C. primary winner, the man said, "All right! My man!" and then proceeded 0ut to the street corner: "Barack just won North Carolina!"

7:16: Michelle Malkin is bitterly blogging. Hot Air has got their bitter high-tech chat thing happening. Here in at Obama HQ in Martinsburg, W.Va., the bitterness is almost palpable. They've got a phone-bank going, watching the election returns while they flog the phones for Obama. Will get a photo up in a few minutes.

7:14: Now with 9% reporting in Indiana, it's Hillary 57%, Obama 43%.

7:12: Man, easy to see why the liberals rant against Chris Matthews. If you tune in to MSNBC for the oh-so-serious Olbermann, the chatty Matthews is an annoyance.

7:08: Now it's John Kerry spinning for Obama -- mentioning "Operation Chaos"! Olbermann insinuates some sinister conspiracy; mentions Richard Mellon Scaife!

7:06: Terry McAuliffe -- wow, there's a guy I haven't seen much lately -- is on with Chris Matthews now. McAuliffe has nice teeth and a tan that looks like he's spent the past two weeks in Palm Beach. "We've got a long way to go in this process," he says, spinning the idea of 2,209 as the magic number.

7:03: "Too early to call" in Indiana, Chris Matthews says, with 4% reporting and Hillary ahead 59%-41%. Another 27 minutes before N.C. polls close.

6:55: Still no adequate explanation for the MSNBC early returns when polls haven't yet closed. Right now, Tom Daschle -- who's for Obama -- is on with Keith Olbermann, talking super-delegates. Olbermann, as usual, looks on the verge of erupting in fury. I don't know why.

6:50: Just set up Crisis '08 HQ at the offices of the Berkeley County (W.Va.) Democratic Party, where they've got got MSNBC on TV. For some reason, the network is already showing 3% of the vote counted in Indiana, with Hillary ahead 61% to 39%.

5:15: Just about to head out and caught a few minutes of Fox News coverage. Note to Megyn Kelly: Lose those Alan Colmes glasses. I know you're trying to be taken seriously -- not just another smokin' hot Fox blonde, and all that -- but you've gone too far with this Colmes look.

Speaking of serious, Fox just highlighted a report from the Wall Street Journal that Hillary Clinton's campaign is saying 2,209 is the magic number:
Clinton was also asked about the delegate count: Would the race against Sen. Barack Obama end when she or he gets 2,025 delegates – generally accepted as the total needed to secure the nomination — or 2,209 delegates, a number that includes delegates from Florida and Michigan? The Democratic National Committee has said it would not seat Florida and Michigan delegates since their states held early primaries in violation of party rules.
Clinton said she thought 2,209 was number needed to win. On Monday, Geoff Garin, her chief strategist had said on a conference call that 2,209 is “what we believe is the standard for deciding this is that who has a majority of the total number of delegates,
including Michigan and Florida, that — to decide the nomination,” according to a transcript of the call.
For its part, the Obama camp is clearly focused on 2,025, and the campaign put out a press release Monday saying the Illinois senator needs 273 more delegates to reach that goal.
Another ear full of cider, you see.

4:25 p.M.: Just about to get in the shower (preparatory to my excursion to West By God Virginia) when I decided to check Memeorandum and saw this report from Indiana:
Amid heavy turnout, Republicans appeared to be crossing over in droves today in Marion County and suburban counties. . . .
Jim Adams, 36, voted for Hillary Clinton to keep the race going beyond Indiana. He's a McCain backer and enjoys watching the Democrats fight.
"In the end, I think McCain is going to win," Adams said, and then referred to controversial statements by Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor. "Bill can't keep his mouth shut, and the reverend can't keep his mouth shut."
An "Operation Chaos" agent in action!

4 p.m.: While I dozed this morning, Team Clinton was lowering expectations in North Carolina, where my prediction of a 55-45 Obama win now looks safe. North Carolinian Bob Owen says it's just a question of how big Obama wins there. The margin in Indiana will be the main point of interest tonight. Michelle Malkin has a "primary countdown" thread going.

3:30 p.m.: Having spent two previous occasions covering Hillary's campaign, I decided it was time for some Hope and Change, so tonight Crisis '08 HQ will be in the Martinsburg, W.Va., offices of Sen. Barack Obama's campaign.

Just got off the phone with Brenda Robinson, who told me they'll be serving "pizza and everything" at their "Barack the Vote! Results Watching and Phone Banking Party."

I'll be liveblogging the results of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries in a few hours. In the meantime, you can check out my "polls and prediction" post, or see my latest post over at the American Spectator blog, where Philip Klein's latest article prompts my question:
On the other hand, are we so sure that a principled progressive like Obama would do the nation less harm than an unprincipled panderer like Hillary?
Expect updates . . .

1 comment:

  1. Just to clarify, I'm not from the Chicago headquarters, I'm in Charleston and I'm the WV press guy. I've always asked staff to feel free to call me when they had questions about press/blogging. Basically, they worry about field, I worry about communication and we all stay in our own lanes. Thanks for the coverage of our guys working hard.