(Originally published at The Huffington Post on October 24, 2012.)
ARLINGTON, Va. — On a warm Tuesday night in late October, the Organizing for America office in south Arlington, Va., is humming with activity. In a square, two-floor office space with a glass window facing a busy suburban street, more than a dozen Virginians are seated at fold-out tables, phoning voters and asking them to support President Barack Obama’s bid for a second term.
Lakisha Jeffries, a volunteer neighborhood team leader, shows up at the Arlington office two to three nights a week to help turn out the strong base of support in the northern Virginia counties that went heavily for the president in 2008. That means getting them to the polls, putting an absentee ballot in their hands and reminding supporters — over and over again — that they need to show up and vote.
“Talking to people, getting them out, remind them, making sure they have a plan; because that’s important,” Jeffries said. “Sometimes people don’t know what day the election is and when to vote. They let it pass them by because life’s so busy and that’s why I think it’s really important for us to be knocking on their door.”
Across the state of Virginia, where polls show a tight race between Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney, there are dozens of these offices where Obama supporters can organize, make phone calls, collect materials and gather to go canvassing to get out the vote (GOTV) for the president. In a Wednesday conference call, Obama national field director Jeremy Bird touted the Virginia GOTV operation, “We’ve registered more voters than in 2008, knocked on more doors and talked to more people.”
This is what the much discussed ground game looks like at the bottom floor. The operation might look inexpensive — especially compared to the billion dollar television ad war waged by the campaigns and super PACs — but it’s not. The ground game requires paid staff to organize volunteers (the Arlington office boasts five, according to the Obama for America-Virginia web site), lots of cell phones, pamphlets, door-hangers, lawn signs, fuel for transportation, direct mail and — as was evident at the Arlington office on Tuesday night — pizza.