I’m sitting in the backseat of our rented SUV driving to Cleveland, Ohio. The rest of the White House team is up front, listening to somewhat depressing music that is making me think about jumping out of the car at 75 miles per hour, but I’m going to try to avoid the tuck and roll and focus instead on telling you about my recent experience on the campaign trail.
I spent the last 48 hours travelling with the White House Press Corps which follows Barack Obama, the US president, to most of his stops. It’s not a bad way to travel in all honesty the plane is chartered, the buses arranged for you and there is almost always coffee. The port-a-potty’s set up at every location is getting a bit old, but the bigger problem is you have to keep up with the president’s schedule, and let me tell you, the man is moving fast with four days until the election.
Campaigns ‘bordering on abuse’
We arrived at the hotel in Columbus, Ohio at two in the morning, up at six to do it all over again. His goal is to have as many rallies as is physically possible, most of them it seems in Ohio. It’s the state both campaigns believe they have to win. I understand the logic, from the campaigns perspective if the president can get his biggest supporters excited with a personal visit they may volunteer for him, make phone calls, and knock on doors all in hopes of increasing voter turnout. This entire election is about voter turnout. Whoever can get their “maybe supporters” to actually vote for them, wins. It’s just that simple. What is a little more complicated is how they go about trying to inspire people to cast a ballot.
I interviewed a political science professor recently, who told me that there is research that shows people are 90 per cent more likely to vote if they’ve had personal contact with representatives of a campaign. I’m sure there is some science behind that, it is after all part of his title, but I just don’t see it. We broke away from the campaign for a bit.We stopped at a diner in Hilliard, Ohio after the president’s last rally in order to get a sense of what people in Ohio think. I can sum it up pretty easily: they are really annoyed.
One young man told me the campaigns are “bordering on abuse”. These voters tell me their cell phones are ringing constantly, their mailboxes are packed with flyers, and they no longer answer the front door or watch television.
After talking to them, I have the impression that the election has come down to harassing the citizens of a handful of states. What I don’t understand is every single person told me that they didn’t make the decision on who to vote for based on the information from the campaigns. Which makes me wonder why the candidates are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to reach them? Something doesn’t add up either the science is wrong or the people just don’t know how much they’ve been impacted. Are we at a place where voting has become a subliminal exercise?
I don’t have the answer right now. I’m going to think about that for a bit, but first I’m going to see if the team will play Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” just for a quick pick-me-up.
Follow Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane on Twitter: @PattyCulhane