Julie Chen/The SPOKE
By Brendan Viola
SPRINGFIELD—On the second floor of Sen Barack Obama's Delaware County Field Headquarters, a closed-door meeting of the utmost importance is getting underway. This meeting is not between Obama's head campaign advisors, not a meeting to discuss a tactic to win the Pennsylvania primary and not a secret conference between Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright discussing race relations. No, this Mar. 27 meeting is between just over a dozen community volunteers in the Springfield area, and is key to the Neighborhood Team Model of Obama's grassroots campaign.
The teams meet once a week to touch base, however a great deal of the communication between members coordinating events occurs outside of the meetings. Each neighborhood team is composed entirely of volunteers, and each team is appointed a field organizer that manages multiple teams and coordinates larger-scale events. Volunteers are assigned such tasks as canvassing neighborhoods and phone banking, which is designed to target undecided voters and explain Obama's strongpoints.
The teams at the Delaware County Headquarters just finished a successful campaign for voter registration, and nearly all counties exceeded expectations in getting voters to register Democratic, according to the Delaware County Regional Field Director Betsy Hoover.
The Spoke had an opportunity to talk with Hoover.
The Spoke: Why did you first choose to get involved with the Obama campaign?
Hoover: Well, I am very passionate about the candidate; I feel we have an awesome candidate on our hands that fires people up in a way that I haven't seen before. I also love seeing all of the new people that Obama is bringing into the process.
The Spoke: What's the most important thing that makes Obama's campaign stand out from those of the other candidates?
Hoover: Obama's organizing model. He's really focused on grassroots organizing, and that was a draw for me because my background is in community organizing.
The Spoke: How do you feel Obama's strategy has changed leading up to the primaries, considering his lead over Hillary Clinton and the effect that a victory in Pennsylvania could have on the race?
Hoover: One of the greatest things about Obama is how consistent he's been, in the high and low times—he's well-organized, neighborhood based, very grassroots, very on the ground. I anticipate his strategy will remain the same going forward, and hopefully we'll continue our surge in confidence as we finish up.
The Spoke: How do you feel the bashing of the Hillary campaign and personal attacks on Obama?
Hoover: I think that negative campaigning is something that we've tried to avoid—I don't think it's helpful in any way that our opponent has been more negative at times. I also think that Barack has handled the opposition with great grace, and it could've been much more detrimental than it has been.
The Spoke: Do you feel that the criticism by Obama's Democratic opponents have lowered his chances of victory in the general election?
Hoover: No, I actually think they have increased. We recently held our voter registration drive at this location, and the amount of people that have traditionally voted Republican who switched over to support Obama is amazing; he's definitely got bipartisan appeal, and that's what's important going into November.