Obama's True Believers
The storefront Obama office in Shaker Square looks a bit like a financial trading floor. There are islands for phone banking, data entry, and what they call "voter protection." Each is manned by energetic staffers and volunteers, of many ages, races, and hometowns. Ethan Kay took time off from a PhD program at Oxford to volunteer for the campaign's final days.
KAY: Coming out here is really the path of least regret. In other words, we want to do everything that we can in the last week and a half, and give it our best, and hope it all works out.
Kay was recruited by his best friend David Levin, who's taking a week of unpaid leave from his consulting job in New York to work for the campaign in Cleveland.
LEVIN: What's really going to make a difference is the ground game. People like us on the ground who are getting people out to vote.
And, some out-of-towners have been working on the campaign for weeks.
The first person most see when they walk in this office is Eda Klinger. She greets the visitors and answers the phones, though like many people on campaigns, that's just the beginning.
KLINGER: I also train people on the phone bank, I have trained people on data entry. I find myself cleaning the bathrooms. I see myself as kind of a den mother, seeing that everything moves smoothly.
Klinger is a retired math teacher from the suburbs of New York. She's not a stranger to politics-having worked for the McGovern campaign in 1972. But this year, she took a more dramatic step-temporarily moving to Ohio in mid-September to volunteer for the Obama campaign.
KLINGER: Yes, and this is a 24/7 proposition. The day begins at 10:00 in the morning and I stay in the office until 9:00 at night. I eat food on the fly and I am perpetual motion.
Klinger says during the primaries, she was torn between Obama and Hillary Clinton-deciding at the last minute for Clinton. As she learned more about Obama, though, she became a fervent fan.
KLINGER: All of the travesties that have happened to our civil liberties during the Bush years, somehow, it's bound to be better with Obama in the White House. He understands how to make decisions: that you listen to people, and form consensus.
For some, though, the Obama candidacy is about other things entirely.
JORDAN: This is divine order. That's just who I am, and what I believe. I really do believe that.
That's what Mittie Imani Jordan thought when she saw the first major-party African American candidate accept his party's nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington.
Jordan runs Deuteronomy 8:3-ostensibly a bookstore and café, but more than anything a community meeting place for conversation. Its walls are decorated with Civil Rights icons. Her patrons on East 105th street have been talking about Barack Obama since he was rumored to be running for the Presidency. She says some were skeptical, and thought this wasn't the right time for him to run. Once Obama announced his candidacy, though, Jordan had no doubt who she would be behind.
JORDAN: American may have the opportunity now of being who America says that they are, other than being that noble notion, we now can return to being a great nation again. And when this time doesn't have the vestiges of 3/5 of a man, and folks who are unable to vote.
Jordan says it's not just Obama's race that makes her a supporter; it's the whole package.
JORDAN: Because we've had other black candidates even here at the state level that there's no way in heck-I'll use a Palin word-I could not support someone running for office just because he's black.
She worries most now about the wars and economic problems Obama would inherit if he's elected. But, in the meantime, she's turning her café into a staging area for out-of-town Obama volunteers working on the campaign's final days. She's hoping it adds up to a historic win on November 4th.