Campaign workers fight for votes in battleground statesSeptember 17, 2012 2:36 PM
Obama campaign workers discuss strategy in Charlotte, NC.
Cathy Garner is a lifelong Democrat who says she couldn't live with herself if she didn't volunteer to help get President Barack Obama re-elected. The 59-year-old retiree spends upwards of 30 hours a week volunteering with Organizing for America, the group formed in the wake of Obama's first presidential victory.
On Sunday afternoon, Garner and about 20 other volunteers gathered in a small office in a strip mall in Charlotte, NC, for a meeting. As they ate a pot-luck meal off paper plates, they gave each other encouragement and shared ideas about how to get out the vote, and on how to recruit other volunteers.
"I wouldn't trade this for anything," Garner said in an interview.
Garner helps with voter registration, goes door-knocking, works the phones, does data entry, and tackles whatever else she is asked to do. Some people hang up on her immediately when she phones, others say their piece about who they are supporting and then hang up. And some listen to what she has to say.
"I like it, it's so interesting to talk with people, and to let them have a voice,"she said.
On the wall at this office in Charlotte, maps of voting precincts line the walls, as do American flags and signs in support of Obama. There's a whiteboard where people have scribbled inspirational messages, and the volunteers on Sunday were getting a pep talk from the team leaders.
"I know we're tired, we've been working hard, there's only a few more weeks and we've got to get people to the polls," the young woman told her fellow volunteers.
She told them to fight for every single voter registration, and gave advice on how to persuade people to vote.
Romney campaign volunteers are also working hard to register voters and recruit more help. At a rally in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday they were working the crowd as people waited in line to get into the event. Clipboards in hand, they were everywhere you turned.
Virginia and North Carolina are both battleground states and the volunteers are logging a lot of hours for their respective candidates.
Pat Whistler, another of the volunteers in Charlotte, spends about four hours a day on campaign activities. Why does she do it?
"Because my heart's in it and because I believe in President Obama," she said.
Whistler says she doesn't try to strong-arm people into voting for Obama when she does voter outreach and she doesn't bash Romney. She says she just points out Obama's record.
"He's made a lot of progress,"she said, adding that the economy can't be fixed overnight.
Garner says when she's talking to voters she encourages people to spend time getting "the whole story" and not just listening to 30-second soundbites from a single news source.
Her team members have spent the past few months focused on registering voters, now they are ramping up efforts to make sure those people will actually go vote on election day.
She's passionate about Obama, that's for sure, but she's also passionate about her country. Garner says it's a "travesty" that a country as rich as the United States doesn't take care of seniors. She wants her fellow Americans to be looked after, and that's why she spends her time volunteering.
"America has been good to me, it's time for me to give back," said Garner.
By Meagan Fitzpatrick, in Charlotte, NC