I volunteered for the Obama For America campaign as part of the Asian American Pacific Islanders (CA)aravan from Los Angeles. I was out in a western Vegas suburb going door to door to encourage people to support Obama and to vote early. The list of folks i was supposed to talk to- 95 homes in all- were all minority folks: blacks, Asians, Persians, South Asians a few arab names. These were folks who were either young (we had ages), or they were older voters with health issues. Context- the neighborhood I was in was solid middle class, very few foreclosed homes and well kept. Dr. Q on the other hand was walking a Eastern Vegas neighborhood where there were more white folks in the upper middle class bracket, lots of foreclosed homes and folks without jobs. The thing with Nevada is that they started early voting on Saturday and the polls were hecka busy, so its important for campaigns in these sort of states to bring out their early support in order to affect polls and the morale of campaigns in other states (like Pennsylvania, which is a swing state with the largest number of electoral seats, like 20, where there is no voting early or absentee balloting).
Each of our experiences were drastically different. For the folks i talked with, they supported Obama without question, however, they were also skeptical that their vote matters. I also met a first time voter who wanted to vote but because of the voter ID laws was unable to get their ID in time and register to vote, thereby was disenfranchised from this election. Dr. Q on the other hand met with folks who were Obama supporters in the past but were voting Gov. Romney this time around. Dr. Q found that the people he talked to- male, middle aged, white- that lived next to or in neighborhoods with foreclosed houses were leaning Mr. Romney. He had decent conversations with folks but walked away feeling that Obama lost votes because the economy was the issue everyone cared about and Gov. Romney had sold his economic pitch.
My experience with Romney folks was not that great. The neighborhood I walked had clear visible Romney supporters (cars with bumper stickers, signs about guns in the house, big lawn signs for Romney), whereas President Obama folks were not visibly supportive. While walking the neighborhood I was regularly approached by Romney supporters (white, middle aged men/women) and engaged in conversation. Usually they assumed i was out telling people to vote early (which i was) but when they saw i was President Obama activist the tone would change. The nicest thing i heard from these Romney folks was that “i’m doing the wrong thing, that i dont know how bad its going to be for our country”, the worst was a middle aged white woman telling me to go back to my country and yelling at me about how “the nation will go to hell because of folks like me”. Another man basically told me that by supporting Obama I was going to destroy this country and lead to civil war. These Romney supporters were also coming out in droves to do early voting, whereas the Obama folks weren’t really “moved” to vote early.
While I have a few observations I wont share right now, the one thing that i got out of this experience, which was crystal clear- Romney folks don’t like Gov. Romney, but will vote for him because in their mind Romney is the lesser of two evils. What was interesting was that before I left for Nevada I pulled up the past several election stats on the state, in Bush v. Gore, Bush won all of nevada’s electoral seats by only ~21,000 votes. Once he bagged nevada, Florida became the final deciding swing state. Where millions of people are voting, to get 4 electoral college seats by 21k votes, Bush bagged the presidency.
In contrast, if you look at Florida in 2000, had Gore asked for a statewide recount, he would have won the statewide recount by 100 votes and Gore would have won 291 electoral seats to Bushs 240 electoral seats. Swing states indeed.