US campaign managers on their toes as final showdown nears
Overtaken by exhaustion, teams of both Obama and Romney put their best foot forward, Monica Davey and Michael Wines write.world Updated: Nov 05, 2012 00:44 IST
Inside a peeling former nightclub here, Obama volunteers are perched on any seats they can find, trays of half-eaten sandwiches line an old mirrored bar and a hand-scrawled list of "office needs" includes toilet paper and Teddy Grahams.
But if this campaign office conveys a casual, ragtag feel, it belies a sprawling operation with an intricate chain of command, volunteers who have been here for years and a lexicon worthy of the military.
Volunteer red, white and blue team captains bear particular duties for getting voters to the polls, not to mention "comfort captains," assigned to tend to coffee, meals and sore feet.
The Obama campaign has been here so long that there has been time to decorate.
Offices are equipped with streamers, cheery multicolored posters, piles of charging campaign cellphones labeled "firing up" and even the occasional goofy riddle taped to a wall.
Any frivolity has been eclipsed in these final hours, overtaken by exhaustion, tension and an overriding focus on meeting this operation's carefully monitored numerical goals for volunteers signed up, doors knocked on, voters met.
Romney's Kenwood Victory Center, like the five others in metropolitan Cincinnati, is the antithesis of funky, the inverse of cool.
Its phone bank workers often connect to empty houses when even advocacy groups let computers do the dialing, and find the actual humans their workers talk to.
The neighbourhood door-knockers record their successes and failures in pencil, when many others have long switched to smartphones tied wirelessly to databanks.
It is the most expensive and technically sophisticated campaign in American history. But in the end, after months of work, after hundreds of hours of commercials and hundreds of thousands of front-porch visits and millions of telephone calls - after focus groups, fliers, yard signs and rallies - Shelley and Dennis Russell are unmoved.
Days before the polls open they are still undecideds, targets in the cross hairs of a yearlong political cannonade who somehow, miraculously have yet to be persuaded by either side.
Yet on closer inspection, it is no miracle.
To the contrary, they personify the angst that defines the dying days of this especially bitter contest, an emotion that the campaigns have longed to capitalise on, but have never captured.