The clock is ticking. With a little more than three weeks to go before the election, it's time to get on your grind and help shore up votes for your presidential candidate of choice. Whether you're a fan of Barack Obama or John McCain, here are 15 ways to state your case between now and Nov. 4. — Susan Thurston and Dalia Colón
Buy politically correctly
Steer the conversation toward politics with some party knickknacks and novelty items. Break the ice with a tin of Peppermints for McCain, which sell for $3 at White House Gear American Classics at Channelside Bay Plaza. Or lighten the mood with a Wacky Wobbler Obama bobblehead, available for $16 at Urban Outfitters at Centro Ybor. (White House Gear has T-shirts, buttons and posters from local artists on both sides of the aisle; Urban Outfitters has mostly Obama mugs, glasses, T-shirts.)
Work for free
Both campaigns are seeking volunteers to work phone banks, campaign door-to-door and register voters. The Obama side needs volunteers to make phone calls, walk neighborhoods and do clerical work and data entry. Commit to working a few hours or just show up at one of the local field offices. Volunteers can state Obama's position by calling neighbors and friends or dialing from a campaign-generated list, either from a campaign office or remotely from home. Supporters interested in taking Obama's message door-to-door can pick up a "walk packet'' with information on where to go, names of residents, campaign literature and a script of some talking points. For field-office locations, go to fl.barackobama.com or call (813) 272-2362. The McCain camp needs help with office work, making and waving signs, driving voters to the polls on election day, precinct walking, making calls from home or the office and more. In Hillsborough County, go to hcrp.org to find the number for your nearest office. In Pinellas, go to pinellasrepublican.org or call the main office at (727) 539-6009.
Give campaigning the old college try
The University of South Florida Student Government will host a student political debate at 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Marshall Student Center Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public. Members of USF's College Republicans and College Democrats will debate on education, the economy, foreign policy, the environment, health care and energy. You don't have to be a student to work with the College Republicans or Bulls for McCain. The public is welcome to help work phone banks on campus, wave signs or go door to door around the USF area, hand out campaign materials on campus and register students to vote. Get involved at ctr.usf.edu/cr, or join one of these Facebook groups to keep up with events: Official USF College Republicans Group or Bulls for John McCain. Contact Billy Schmidt, regional director for the Florida Students for McCain Coalition, at (561) 818-4934. The USF College Democrats work the phones at 7 p.m. every Wednesday at the Marshall Center and canvass neighborhoods at noon every Saturday. Contact Matthew Coppens at [email protected]
Get out your checkbook
Donate directly to the campaign, either online or through the mail. Individuals can donate up to $2,300 per election to a candidate or up to $28,500 per calendar year to a national party committee. For Obama, go to my.barackobama.com or mail a check to Obama for America, P.O. Box 802798, Chicago, IL 60680. Obama fans also can create their personal fundraising page with their own photo, testimonial and fundraising goal. A thermometer on the page will track each supporter's progress. For McCain, go to johnmccain.com and click on "contribute." You may also drop off a donation at any local Republican office. Sport some merch
Wear your party affiliation on your sleeve with a T-shirt or buttons. All purchases made through Obama's official Web site benefit his campaign. Purchases made through McCain's site, however, are operated by independent, for-profit companies, and proceeds do not benefit the campaign. So you're better off making a donation outright. Forgo the schlumpy Country First ball caps and Palin Power buttons in favor of something with a bit more spunk, like a T-shirt that says McCain Is My Homeboy.; NObama; or Sarah Palin Hockey Club: Puck Obama, which are available online. Obama peeps can try the Obama Mama shirts, or Barack -n- Roll! and Obama: This time I want a smart president. Check out cafepress.com or obamashirts.com.
Offer up your couch
Have an extra bed, sofa or air mattress? The Obama campaign needs help housing volunteers and employees. A home-cooked meal would also be nice, but it's not required. Sign up on fl.barackobama.com and someone will contact you if housing is needed in your area.
Dress up as your candidate for Halloween
Give the public more facetime with your candidate by dressing up as him (or, in the case of Sarah Palin, her) for Halloween. Strutting down Seventh Avenue on Guavaween in a McCain or Obama mask is sure to get people talking (or arguing, depending on how much alcohol is involved). Masks are available for $12.95 online at findcostume.com. Stuffy business suit and red tie not included.
Sing your guy's praises
Musicians for Obama is holding its second free Get Out the Vote party from 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Witch's Brew, 1219 Florida Ave. in Palm Harbor. Peter Grace and other musicians will perform, and local Democratic candidates have been invited to speak. Call (727) 483-9210 or e-mail [email protected]
Come out of the closet
Feel like your party affiliation doesn't reflect your values? Wonder if it's time to switch-hit? Confirm your inklings by taking a quiz on Blogthings.com. The absolutely unscientific quizzes test your Democratic-ness and Republican-ness with statements to cheer or reject: It's Adam and Eve — not Adam and Steve! Or Michael Moore is an American hero! Still not sure which candidate should get your vote? Tackle the question directly by taking the "Should you vote for Obama or McCain'' quiz.
Host a debate party
The candidates will square off in a final debate Oct. 15 in Hempstead, N.Y. Host a watch party to educate your undecided friends. Better yet, charge a cover and donate the proceeds to the campaign. Republicans can crank up John Rich's Raisin' McCain and top off everyone's glass of Red Trunk. Go to johnmccain.com/dashboard and click on "host an event." Dems, turn up will.i.am's Yes We Can and pop open a bottle of Jack Blue. Red Trunk, Jack Blue and other partisan wines are available for $14.99 at politicalwine.com.
Attend the 'Vote or Die' party
On Nov. 1, St. Petersburg's Kizmet restaurant and R&B club will roll out the red carpet — literally — for an election-themed soiree. Two high school students, one representing the Republican viewpoint and the other in favor of Democrats, will state their case in speeches and then debate before the crowd. Representatives from both political parties plan to attend. Formal wear is encouraged. Admission is $10, which includes hors d'oeuvres and entry to the after-party from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Get tickets at Kizmet, 1101 First Ave. N; or at Against the Grain Barbershop, 1504 16th St. S. (727) 501-2267.
Hit a campaign stop
The presidential and VP candidates don't announce their campaign schedules too far in advance, but no doubt they'll be making more trips to Florida and other swing states. Sign up for your candidate's e-mail alerts on their official Web sites to find out when they're coming back.
Stage a protest
Exercise your right to free speech by hanging outside an opponent's event or waving signs outside polling places on election day. It's legal as long as you keep it civil and stay on public property.
Pour a beer and state your case
Attend a Drinking Liberally meeting to share ideas while sharing a pitcher of beer. Preach to the left-leaning choir or try to convert the unfaithful. The gatherings welcome people of all party persuasions. Local chapters meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at New World Brewery, 1313 E Eighth Ave. in Ybor City and at 7 p.m. Thursdays at Old Chicago, 2042 Badlands Drive in Brandon. A St. Petersburg group meets the last Thursday of each month at 8 p.m. at Limey's Pub, 1492 Fourth St. N. drinkingliberally.org. Spam your family and friends
Although they may not be your friends for long, depending on their tolerance for e-mail blasts. At johnmccain.com/dashboard, click on "signup family" to import your online address book. The address book will follow you throughout the site so you can forward news, videos and other fascinating tidbits with the click of a mouse.