Hundreds of D.C. Democrats headed to the battleground state of Virginia recently with high hopes of convincing undecided voters there to reelect President Barack Obama.
The effort—called GOTV, “Go to Virginia”—was spearheaded by the D.C. Democratic Committee and drew hundreds of Obama supporters, officials said. As they do many Saturdays, the volunteers met on Sept. 29 at the Democratic National Committee office at South Capital and Ivy St. SE, then traveled to various parts of Virginia as far away as Hampton. The volunteers hoped to draw voters to Obama in the swing state, where both president and Republican contender Mitt Romney have campaigned heavily.
One group traveled to Manassas to canvass several neighborhoods, based out of the Obama campaign office on Main Street in Old Town.
“There were no visible signs of Romney workers Virginians told us. I don’t believe that Romney has the support that the media polls claim,” said canvasser Christine Easterling, a former assistant principal at Coolidge Senior High School. She went out despite having foot surgery the day before.
“I am one of those 47 percent of Americans that Obama’s opponent doesn’t care anything about,” she said. “I am going to do something every day until the end of the election, whether it is canvassing, phone banking, data entry. I am committed to work hard for Barack Obama.”
While the District of Columbia traditionally stands solid behind Democratic presidential candidates, Virginia has traditionally backed Republicans. In 2004’s presidential campaign, Virginians backed George W. Bush over John Kerry. However, in 2008, commonwealth voters cast the majority of their ballots for Obama, the first time in 40 years that the state’s voters had backed a Democrat for president.
At Obama’s Manassas office, volunteers from Maryland and the District showed up throughout the day for orientation and canvassing assignments. Several sororities brought bus loads of volunteers who took to the streets. Volunteers who could not walk worked the phones.
Obama supporters said the 2008 shift, and polls showing Obama with a slight lead over Romney in Virginia, are fuelling their hopes that the president can pull out a victory there for a second time.
“I was skeptical at first, but the people were so appreciative and cheerleading our efforts to beat Romney,” said Elaine Gunter, a Ward 4 senior citizen who canvassed in Alexandria.
Rita Hunt Thomas, a retired federal employee who lives in Ward 6, said most of the people she encountered in Prince William County on Sept. 29 told her they will be voting for Obama.
“Some were willing to volunteer, as well,” she said. “People seemed grateful that someone was reaching out to them in person. Every once in a while, someone would be undecided or voting for Romney, but for the most part, people were very supportive of President Obama.”
Originally, from a small town in Virginia, Easterling said the volunteers are committed to work through Election Day. They hope others will join the effort.
“Make no mistake, it will not be [as] easy for the Republicans to take Virginia as they have in the past. We are fired up,” she said, invoking part of Obama’s 2008 rallying cry. “We never put the fire out and we are ready to get President Barack Obama reelected.”
Thomas, who volunteers frequently, said she would be “glued to the television” to watch the presidential debate on Oct. 3. Obama, she said, would prevail.
“He will run circles around Romney,” she said. “He is a man who is going to make a tremendous mark on this country. Years from now when we look back at the Obama administration, and prayerfully it will be two administrations for him, we will be tremendously blessed by the honesty and professionalism, dedication, tenacity, vision and sheer love for his country that he is putting into his administration.”