Yesterday was a bittersweet day as we spent it taking apart the downtown Ann Arbor Obama HQ. Most of the Field Organizers as well as our Regional Field Director will leave town in the next few days, returning to their homes. But what an impact they had in Michigan. One of the most striking victories for our group was the victory of Barack Obama in Milan, Michigan. Milan straddles two counties, Washtenaw and Monroe. It is a very Republican area of the state, full of the “the Bitters” as they have become to be known. But not only did we win Milan, we won both of the counties it is in.
The volunteer turnout over the GOTV weekend was nothing short of stunning outstate. My wife and I moved down from Scio Township just west of Ann Arbor to help lead the GOTV weekend’s events in Saline, south of Ann Arbor. It’s a more rural, blue collar area and canvassing some parts of it has been very challenging, particularly since there was a fairly light turnout of volunteers in the weeks and months leading up to November.
But over the weekend we had nearly 200 volunteers show up and we walked all our packs on all four days at least twice and most of them three times. We were so well-staffed that when a call for help came from Detroit, we sent a dozen volunteers down there. In one precinct in Detroit, there was an 85% flake rate for volunteers. An influx from outstate, including our area, led a Regional Field Director from there to tell us that we had “saved Detroit”.
Here’s what the Michigan electoral map looked like in 2004:
Here’s what it looked like Wednesday morning:
In most of the precincts in Scio Township where we spent most of our time and where we live, we had turnout rates of between 80 and 86%! We won Jackson County. We won Monroe County. We won Kent Country (home of Grand Rapids.) A sitting State Supreme Court judge was defeated by the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party. In Oakland County, there is is now a Democratic Representative to Congress. There hasn’t been a Democrat in that seat since Byron Stout served from 1891 to 1893! The list goes on. For many of us, it’s unbelievable.
The GOTV effort was full of smiles, great stories and a few battle scars. Several of our volunteers were chased back to their cars by dogs, one was bitten. Some of our volunteers would spend 4 hours walking a particularly difficult pack and then come in and say “I need to rest a little.” They’d eat some food, sit down for a bit and then within the hour they were back out on the canvass trail, walking another pack, this time in the dark with tiny, nearly-useless flashlights, squinting to find addresses. In Milan, one particularly energetic team of Jerome, Bill and Leslie walked a pack of 105 houses TWICE on election day!
Several of the people we sent to Detroit phoned in when they were heading back. One of them was effusive. He told me it was the best experience he’d had yet volunteering. “Everybody should canvass in Detroit at least once,” he told me. “It was amazing. People were just hanging out in the streets, celebrating. Lots of them didn’t know where to vote. I know I was personally responsible for at least 15 people voting that wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gone down there. It’s so gratifying!”
And down in Missouri, where victory is hanging by a thread and may elude us, my sister-in-law took her one year-old son to vote with her.
In the voting booth, she took his little finger and had him press down the lever for Barack Obama.
It is, after all, HIS future we’re trying to save.
I’m just sayin’…