From the “If You Like Bratwurst, Stay Out of the Sausage Factory” file:
Yesterday, Kate and I hosted a mini-MoveOn calling party. “Mini” because we only had one person not a member of our household show up. What we lacked in numbers we made up for in enthusiasm, wit, and sapient commentary.
This was the drill: We printed out voter phone numbers, 192 in all. They were evenly split between New Jersey, where appointed incumbent Senator Bob Menendez is running against Tom Kean Jr., an appointed state legislator whose biggest asset is his dad’s name and a willingness to sling mud, and Ohio, where Bush rubber stamp Michael DeWine is trailing Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democratic congressman. We found a Kean campaign ad online so that we knew how to pronounce his name (it’s KANE, like Charles Foster Kane, not KEEN) in case it came up, and I printed out a few stories from New Jersey papers about the race so that if a voter asked us a question we didn’t seem like complete idiots (of course, Kate is a New Jersey native and I’ve visited the Garden State many times, so we have an actual connection there).
We needn’t have worried so much about knowing the background. It seemed as though the numbers we were given were in a Latino precinct in northern New Jersey. We encountered lots of people who said they couldn’t speak English or simply hung up when they heard the quaint Anglo jabbering on the other end of the line. Of the 96 Jersey numbers we called:
–49 were hangups, disconnected lines, or otherwise bad numbers; we took them off the calling list.
–44 were answering machines or busy signals and will be called back.
–3 were voters, all of whom said they were voting for Menendez.
On to Ohio. After the New Jersey experience, I didn’t bother scouring the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cincinnati Enquirer, or the Ashtabula Strident Bugle for campaign background–we just jumped in and started calling. One immediate difference: The households we reached were American-speaking. That had the effect of speeding up hang-up times for folks who didn’t want to hear from “Dan Brekke, a volunteer for Call for Change.”
Of the 96 Ohio calls, 47 were answering machines or busy; 27 needed to be removed from the list; 12 reached voters who said they were for Sherrod Brown; and 10–10!–were answered by people who said they planned to vote Tuesday but still hadn’t made up their minds about whom they’d support.
I admit I’m nonplussed by the undecideds. They seem to split into two groups: those who are so unplugged they’re not really sure who’s running, and those who seem at least somewhat thoughtful who are really wrestling with the decision.