Monday, October 04, 2004

Each Day Bigger Than The Last

Or so it seems. Actually, it's true.

Here in West Virginia, voting begins October 13. As one of an increasing number of states with Early Vote, West Virginia gives us a great opportunity to run some field ops before E-day. We can practice persuading undecideds (okay, we do that everyday anyway), get people to the polls, and most importantly, start crossing people off the list so there's less to do on Election Day. That's not how it will work out, of course, since there's always one more voter out there.

The southern part of the state - Coal Country - is 4 to 1 Democrat. But as with California, the disparity (statewide, rather than in gerrymandered districts) means the action is in the primary. As one Mason County man described it to me yesterday - it's Uncle Joe vs. Cousin Lullabelle vs. your wife's nephew and it's one bloody mess until a nominee emerges. Then it takes about 3 voters to confirm the primay pick. Great for local politics, bad for national general elections. The situation in California isn't wholly different, except that I think people there still take more stock in general elections rather than in primaries. It's funny, really, considering the amount of attention focused on West Virginia right now compared to how much given to Cali.

It's morning here in Ripley - the bank sign read 37 degrees this morning, and while I think that was a bit low, it felt like it for most of the night in my new digs - a cozy (looking) garage apartment that lacks for nothing except . . . . a bed. My regional director provided me with an air mattress and bedding - which would've been fine if not for the cold. I'm going to look into that for tonight. So far I've been running fine on 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night, but that only counts if I actually sleep. I'm back at the Cornerstone Coffee Co in historic downtown Ripley, across the street from the Courthouse and kitty corner from my still dank, internetless, but cheerfully decorated office (pictures forthcoming). We had a conference call last night at 9:30 and one again at 8:30 this morning. That's pretty much what we do - we're on the phone. Constantly. Calling volunteers, calling voters, calling other FOs, offices, labor, etc, etc, etc. Our office here is technically the Jackson County Exec Committee's HQ. Mason County has one as well (its address, unsurprisingly, also a number on Main Street). Mason's office, however, has no phone line nor plans to get one. It's not a big deal - kinda - but it does mean a lot of driving. Which isn't so bad since it's gorgeous here. But there's always the fear of deer . . . . ("don't swerve, just slam on the breaks and keep driving straight.")

My first event is planned - a VP Debate Watching Party ("at Village Pizza over on Jackson, 8:00pm, hope y'all can make it") - and I'm moving into heavy volunteer recruitment mode. The median age in West Virginia is 40 - making it the oldest state in the country. It's also very poor, very unhealthy, and very unemployed. It's elected Robert Byrd since about its entrance into the Union - and the soon to be elected Dem governor has about a 30 point lead in the polls. So what do we have to worry about?

They get us, I've been told by many, on the 3 Gs: guns, God, and gays. Apparently John Kerry will force you to marry your same-sexed friend at a ceremony where he takes your gun and burns your bible. Nevermind that he's a sportsman, Catholic, and opposes gay marriage. The Swift Boat Veteran ads ran here - making August a particularly dark month for the campaign. There are plenty of pro-Kerry veterans however. In fact, on Saturday, there's a house party for "Mason's Own and West Virginia's Only" Swift Boat Veteran - one for John Kerry, that is.

Besides it's natural beauty, West Virginia is a calm place - despite the feverish campaigns trying their damndest to inflame voters' passions. The people are wonderful - infrequent stereotype notwithstanding (the absolute most terrifying place I've been so far is the sporting goods section of Walmart - I know, I know, but the nearest Target is like 80 miles away. It's huntin' seaons - so the camo and guns are a' flowin'. I asked a clerk about flashlights and his response was Boomhauer-esque). The people I've talked with, however, Democrats, Republicans, Kerry volunteers have been warm, friendly, and curious about how a California girl ended up not just in West Virginia, but in rural West Virgina. Sometimes, it still surprises me too . . . .

Cable internet has been promised for today. We'll see. For now - it's time for another decaf and some data entry - there'll be conference calls soon.

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