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Army of volunteers behind Obama bid

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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The deputy mayor of Wells, Theo Butt Philip, has been in the USA helping President Obama's re-election campaign. He has been sending the Journal updates of how it has been going. With the result due after we go to press he writes:

While American elections, viewed from the UK, may be seen as entirely media-driven affairs, with hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into television advertising, Barack Obama's campaigns have always relied heavily on grassroots activity.

I was told when I got here that the Romney campaign was spending their money on television advertising, robo-calls and yard signs, but as yard signs can't vote we were investing in people.

The candidates themselves can't possibly meet all the voters and so rely on an army of volunteers to do so.

They come from all walks of life, I've seen people from all backgrounds and ages come into our office.

I've sat down and trained everyone in how to make campaign phone calls from the retired, to people working three jobs, to students, to the leader of the Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates.

In just the small region I work in almost half a million phone calls were made on the last Saturday of the election and another half a million doors were knocked the same day.

Our little office on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall has seen visits from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, tipped by many to be a candidate for the presidency in four years time, former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, now a candidate for the US Senate, actress Cynthia Nixon, and the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and that's all in one week.

What is inspiring about all these visits is that people crowd our little office to come and hear their politicians speak – rallies and visits really do draw a crowd. A large number of people really are engaged, they want to hear what their politicians have to say.

A slightly more surprising aspect of the campaign has been the number of foreigners who have visited the small city of Charlottesville, Virginia, to help.

In addition to me, our phone bank director is a British volunteer, we've also had half a dozen extra Brits visit, plus a German student at the local university and 19 Danes who have chosen to spend five days in Charlottesville volunteering.

Perhaps even more surprising is the reaction of the citizens of Charlottesville to all these foreign visitors. While some might have had initial concerns about the reaction to a Brit or a German or a Dane calling to ask an American to support the Democrats, the reaction has been far from hostile. It has ranged from indifference to gratitude that the rest of the world cares about America's election. When this paper comes out on Thursday the results of the US election will probably be known.

At the time of writing, just a few hours before the polls open, I would predict that Obama will win Virginia and retain the presidency, but the results in many states remain uncomfortably close.

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