Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Pee Muffin, and Other Adventures in GOTV

So we’re sitting in the Nashua, New Hampshire Democratic party headquarters and Justin decides to eat one of the muffins I’ve brought. “They’re healthy,” I warn him, as if you couldn’t kind of see that just at a glance. As he reaches into the bag, one falls out and bounces on the floor a couple of times. Although the running, and all too believable, joke is that the pee hasn’t been cleaned up from the office’s recent stint as some kind of social service agency and, pee or no pee, the carpet is unquestionably nasty (the kind of place where you don’t feel guilty for spilling something because it makes no appreciable difference), and although there are plenty of muffins, he picks it up and starts eating. I can’t tell if the suspicious expression on his face is more about the carpet residues or the healthiness of the flax/buckwheat/apple/carrot/raisin/walnut muffin. Eventually he claims that the muffin “was good, once I got past the carpet and hair and pee taste.”

Later, Pat arrives to drop off some new campaign literature and almost the first thing he says to me is “it was Justin who said you were talking about jelly beans.” “I remembered you saying it.” “I was repeating what he said.” “Well, I’ll issue a correction.”

Consider that corrected: Justin, not Patrick, originated the notion that Emily and I discussed jelly beans for like 5 hours of canvassing.

Hearing discussion of that diary, Justin says in a disgusted voice “great, you’re probably going to write about the pee muffin, too.” (Thereby leaving me no choice.)

But backtrack. I wrote about doing GOTV for Paul Hodes in Nashua over the weekend, but it didn’t end there. I took Monday off, but the field staff worked as hard Monday as they had all weekend. In fact, they went out and did a lit drop late Monday night to Tuesday morning before catching a few hours of sleep where they could. When I arrived Tuesday morning, Brooke’s nose was bright red from having just finished a stint standing outside in the cold New Hampshire morning doing visibility at a polling place. Toby and Justin had slept on the floor of the Nashua office. Jamie kept curling up on one of the chairs and trying to sleep; it looked like she hadn’t had a chance to take a shower. Torey had a 5 o’clock shadow, except it might have been from 5 the previous morning.

No primary opponent for Paul Hodes, and this is how hard they were working.

I did visibility at one polling place with Torey, where we tried with varying success not to get into conversations with the eccentric if not mentally ill man who was also holding Hodes signs. I believe he had been a client at the agency that used to be where the Dem office is now, and had been taken up by one of the people who works there. He was installed on a lawn chair with a 2-liter bottle of Coke Zero, a cup of coffee, and a donut. As people left after voting he called out thanking them. In between, he regaled us with various pieces of information. Somehow an explication of the Big Bang led directly to an extended argument that General Custer had been killed by his own troops because they were angry about his close friendships with Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. I must say that hearing a General Custer conspiracy theory was a first for me. When Torey went inside to use the bathroom, the man explained to me at some length how it is “a fact of female plumbing that women need to go to the bathroom eight times as much as men.” I did not, however, hear his case for extraterrestrial colonization directly from him, which was kind of sad.

Kaili and I spent the afternoon canvassing the neighborhood Emily and I had done Sunday afternoon, plus a neighboring area. It was startling how in the space of about a block the houses went from large Victorians set well apart from each other on straight, orderly streets to seedy apartment buildings on little streets criss-crossing each other at angles that made navigation difficult. Exhausted, I stared stupidly down at one woman’s George W. Bush doormat for a minute, wondering why they’d sent me to the house of someone who liked him so much, before I figured out that it was an invitation to wipe my feet on his face. At another house, my ringing the doorbell was answered by a voice from above, and I stuck my head out from the porch to see a genuinely scary-looking old man (think the Cryptkeeper, only pasty skin with red rings around watery eyes) leaning off the balcony above.

As it grew dark, Toby and I did visibility outside another polling place. In addition to having slept in the office, he’d spent the day there – while I was doing visibility and canvassing, he was cutting turf and phonebanking in the windowless, fluorescent-lit, faux-wood-panelled rooms. He said he'd lost track of time, thinking it must be night only to find out it was noon. Mosquitos came out and started going for our faces, the only bare skin they could find. A write-in candidate tirelessly introduced himself to the bare trickle of people going in. We talked about Mark Warner, John Edwards, Paul Hodes, Toby’s hope for one day off work between now and the general election.

Finally, at 8:00, the polls were closing and we went in to wait for results. We watched while the flock of elderly poll workers, led by a man with the second-worst combover I’ve ever seen, removed the optical scan ballots from the machine and took them over to sort, printed a receipt from the machine, and, after a seeming eternity, brought it over and taped it to the wall, emphasizing that these were unofficial results. There were no surprises. On the Republican side, Charlie Bass handily beat his opponents, who had spent about $16,000 between two of them. Neither party had a gubernatorial primary. Paul Hodes had no opposition. In isolation, there was no narrative to draw from these results.

As we walked out, Toby called the office. “Dude, we WON!” he yelled, laughing.

In the car, I noticed I had a voicemail. It’s Paul Hodes, thanking me for my contributions, as he was doing for everyone who contributed via ActBlue and left a phone number.

So that was Tuesday on the Hodes campaign.

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