Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The value of Pennyslvania's potential relevance

I just got a forward from a good buddy and political contact of mine who is an Obama supporter. He lives just north of Pittsburgh and is getting inundated with Obama campaign material including most interestingly confirmation of paid field organizers who are hitting up the list of local highly connected activists for a Saturday training, canvassing and voter registration event. That is the first time I have ever seen a Presidential campaign hit up Pennsylvania before the Pennsylvania primary.

And this is why I think the ongoing race is a good thing. I was at Pittsburgh Drinking Liberally last night and besides catching up with some old buddies, listening to their new wives dish dirt and enjoying a good burger and wings, we talked politics and watched the debate. Everyone within this self-selected group of self-identifying liberals and progressives were reasonably happy with both candidates. Almost everyone had a preference but the other candidate was acceptable. And we were all excited that Pennsylvania may be relevant, and that the organizing that either/both campaigns unleash will be reinvigorating.

Right now the Southwestern Pennsylvania Democratic machine is the best organization out there for Democratic GOTV. In either narrowly cast elections with favorable demographics, or secondary elections (judgeships for instance) the progressive/reformer coalition is not that far behind, but the Democratic machine is still a superior organization.

However better does not mean 'good.' I know when I worked for America Votes in the fall of 2006, we were canvassing Democratic voters who had never been canvassed, never been GOTV-ed called and had not realized that there were other Democrats who lived six houses down from them or the next cul de sac over. Due to funding, manpower, and legal constraints (AmericaVotes PA could only work to directly support state legislaturers due to the legal underpinnings of the organization) we could only target a narrow geographic stretch in three or four swing State House districts around Pittsburgh. There is plenty of untapped Democratic strength that a primary campaign with sufficient resources should be able to unearth.

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