The Obama machine revs up in Fla
ST. PETERSBURG — A massive army is rumbling to life in Florida, though it sometimes looks deceptively like a ragtag band of recruits.
Take a peek at an early planning session for volunteers on President Barack Obama's re-election: about 40 people crammed into a dingy St. Petersburg office; Edyth James offering up her homemade pineapple upside-down cake and deviled eggs with dill; a 90-year-old woman recounts voting for FDR; and a Stetson Law student from Iowa says she just wants to help.
Standing before them, an upbeat 25-year-old in flip-flops talks about his parents immigrating from India, the American dream and the vast amount of work ahead of them.
"First we're going to reach out to everybody we know who's already a voter. Second, we're going to expand the electorate and make sure we get more people involved in the process," said Saumya Narechania, who recently traded in his White House job to work with volunteers in the Tampa Bay area.
"And third we're going to make sure that people who are voters and people we are reaching out to to expand the electorate become volunteers."
In 2008, Obama created the largest grass-roots operation Florida had ever seen. They had just four months starting from scratch after Obama became the party's nominee to put together a mighty volunteer-driven campaign. (Remember, Obama didn't even campaign in Florida's early primary because of the Democrats' boycott.) It culminated with tens of thousands of volunteers and 600 paid staffers spread across the state mobilizing voters and delivering Florida to Obama by a 236,000-vote margin.
But that was nothing. This time the campaign starts the build-up with a team that's been on the ground for two years and now has 16 months to build a vast network of neighbors talking to neighbors and friends talking to friends about ensuring Obama's re-election. Similar networks are being constructed in other swing states.