A tale of Twitter and a shift of door-knocking in FL25

People ask, “What do you do with Twitter? How can you say anything with only 140 characters?”

They haven’t been there with us picking away at letters and punctuation to cut a tweet and still be clear in 140 characters. They haven’t seen the magic of the URL-shorteners that wrestle a long whopper down to 10-12 characters.  They don’t see the thought beams that stretch out from the hash mark or the at sign — # and @.

People say, “Who cares what anyone had for breakfast?”

Agree with that last. My preferred tweets are about ideas, suggestions. A tweet with breakfast in it better include something about brain food.

So here are a couple tweets that got me thinking a little while ago. And the result is this blog post, which I’ll try to promote with tweets to my two Twitter accounts, plus notes on Facebook and Buzz.

Tweet at us, How many voters did you talk to today? #OFA #FL

First, some background. This morning I reported to the Joe Garcia campaign headquarters and went out with a couple of dynamite young Democrats, Alejandro Miyar and Courtney Whitney. Our mission was to vanquish a thick envelope with many walk sheets and a script aimed at convincing people to use their last chances to vote early this weekend. We split up the sheets and in a couple hours we called it a wrap. So the tweet above rang a pleasant bell to me in only about 60 characters – less than half the maximum permitted – and I realized I could contribute my information before the sheets were tabulated, possibly rather late this evening. (I know, because I have a campaign staffer staying in my spare room, and pretty often he’s up late at night entering data via his laptop.)

That tweet and the next one came from OFA Florida. That’s the Florida branch of Organizing for America — a k a the Obama campaign, a k a the Democratic National Committee. In other words, this is from President Obama’s right-hand campaigners.

If you’re on Twitter and not following OFA and OFA_FL (or the OFA of your own state) you should correct that oversight right away.

Here’s the tweet that came a little before the one above:

10,660,279 voters reached out to and counting by #OFA. Florida let’s move that number up. Make calls #NOW. http://OFA.BO/7in7

Now, we who have dabbled in political campaigns know that those big numbers are just that – big numbers. OK, yes, the campaign “reached out to” a lot of voters by phone and door-knocking, but a lot of them didn’t pick up, or weren’t at home, or they ducked away from the little spy window in the door, and they won’t listen to the phone message that you may or may not have left.

But we do know that we reach some people and make a difference in their state of knowledge, and, thereby, we can change their voting behavior.

So, here’s what I replied to that first tweet above:

@OFA_FL Did 5-6 walk sheets in FL-25 for #JoeGarcia, maybe a dozen real people. Hope I convinced 3-4 to vote early. Bit of a surprise.

Each walk sheet has a lot of names, so I might have had 100 names of registered voters. Most entries were for one person at one street address, but quite a few were for two names and several were for three or four at one address, so there probably were 50 addresses, and many many were not at home on this late Saturday morning, even though there might be two to five vehicles in the drive.

I didn’t do a tally of my contacts, but for OFA_FL I guessed I spoke with about a dozen real people. One door was especially fruitful. The four people on the list had just returned from voting early, and they said they were for Joe Garcia. Yay! I actually spoke to two of the four, and we all had smiles on our faces.

Not so good was the door where the voter, a 34-year-old registered Democrat, said she wasn’t going to vote because she doesn’t like politicians. I volunteered that Joe Garcia was a whole lot better than the usual run of politicians, but that didn’t change her mood at all, and I left it at that.

But that kind of contact is bothersome. It means that Karl Rove’s brand of dirty tricks has been successful in discouraging a good-hearted person from voting. I could tell from her voice and demeanor that she’s good-hearted, and therefore more likely to vote D – if she could overcome the distaste left by the TV commercials and mailers that pour onto her life in this season. Karl Rove is a thoroughly bad person, I’m convinced.

One quick example of a voter I may have convinced to vote early: A family at home, 20-ish daughter answers the door.  The target is a 61-year-old man, likely her father. He wasn’t aware of the early voting drill, and I could hand him the doorknob hanger with the addresses and advise him that Sunday afternoon was his last chance to get his vote in early.

One more, a more complicated story, which fortifies the idea that it’s good to keep talking, maybe something will come up. This address was at the bottom of one sheet, and as I came into the cul de sac, a woman came out of the garage with a dog on the leash. I assumed she was the 54-year-old female on my list and asked her if she had voted. We talked a little about early voting, and she asked me to leave the door hanger at her mailbox and she would pick it up when she got back from walking the dog.

So I did that while she walked out of the cul de sac, and then I pulled up the next sheet, and was a little chagrinned to realize that there were three more names at that lady’s address. From their ages, it looked like a daughter and two sons. So I went slowly to deal with the two next homes on the sheet, and then the lady came back with her dog, and I could ask about the other names. The daughter, she said, was living in Puerto Rico, and not likely to be voting absentee. The son – it turned out to be only one son though he was entered twice at the address, once as a Democrat and once as NPA – was a student in Tallahassee, she said, though he had come back home for the weekend. She doubted he had changed his voting address, and at my suggestion, she took another door hanger and said she’d make sure he votes early on Sunday afternoon. This was an African American family, and my saying that it was important to support President Obama in this election, even though he’s not on the ballot, seemed to be a telling point with her.

At this point I’ve got over 1,100 words about Twitter and its limit of 140 characters, and it’s time to stop.

Wait, I can’t forget the 40-ish man who promised he’d make his daughter vote for sure, and that he had voted already himself, and that he strongly supported Joe Garcia, whom he follows on Twitter and Facebook.  Yes!

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