Wisconsin State Journal
January 1, 2012
MILWAUKEE — Phone numbers have been disconnected. Many people have moved. And others just aren't interested this time around.
Volunteers were key to President Barack Obama's sweeping victory in 2008, when as many as 8 million people formed a volunteer army that helped transform his presidential campaign into a daunting political machine. But with a halting economic recovery and persistently high unemployment, it's unclear whether Obama supporters with the group Organizing for America will be able to recapture that same magic by November 2012.
"He's not going to get the same sort of Messianic fervor," said UW-Milwaukee political science professor Mordecai Lee, a former Democratic state lawmaker. "But he'll get enthusiasm."
Some Organizing for America (OFA) volunteers, like community organizer Dream Gunther, are as devoted as ever. Gunther, a Milwaukee public school teacher who is on a yearlong sabbatical, spends much of her time working in inner-city Milwaukee with OFA, a nationwide community organizing project of the Democratic National Committee unveiled after Obama's 2008 victory.
But a December meeting at Gunther's house showed that recruiting as many volunteers as Obama had in 2008 heading into next year's presidential election could be a challenge. That evening, a group of six volunteers gathered around her dining room table and talked about trying to build community connections, plan block parties and educate people about Wisconsin's new law requiring voters to show ID at the polls.
They also discussed troubles like disconnected telephone numbers.
Gunther mentioned a recent Saturday phone bank, when volunteers found many people listed as likely Democrats on their call lists had changed telephone numbers or moved.
"The contact rate was very low; there were a lot of disconnected numbers," she said.
Gunther added that one volunteer at the phone bank was discouraged by how difficult it was to reach people. "We're a year out. She thought we should have been farther along," she said.
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