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Obama Volunteers Make a Big Push to Win Florida

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Henzel Design
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Democratic and Republican operatives say they are intensifying get out the vote efforts

By James Call

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-773620.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – The Obama campaign is counting on high voter turnout to win Florida in the presidential election.

Obama field director in Leon County, Lance Williams, explained the organizing principle of the the campaign strategy to volunteers.

"Everybody knows that Florida is still Florida. Is that right? We know how important Florida is. Right? We know that these 27 electoral college votes that we are going to need to win are going to have to come from right here," Williams said.

Although Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 500,000 voters, the GOP has won 11 of 14 statewide elections since 2000.

This may be because of a 72-hour program developed by the Republican Party. The theory is you can increase turnout among your supporters if you contact them three times in the 72 hours before election day.

The Obama campaign is running with that page from the GOP playbook.

"For us to win, for us to make this happen, on Election Day, November 4th, we're going to have to have 400,000 volunteer shifts across the state. Think about 400,000. That's a huge number, and we have a lot of work in front of it," Williams told the volunteers.

Among the crowd willing to work was 74-year-old Morriss Thomas. It's his first time volunteering to work on a campaign.

"An African-American running for office in this country and become an actual president -- no, I never thought it would happened. No, not in my lifetime," Thomas said.

Thomas says he can think of only two other candidates, John and Bobby Kennedy, he would have considered knocking on doors and making phone calls for. At the time, he didn't volunteer because he believed that it was not right for active military personnel to be involved in politics. Thomas was in the U.S. Air Force when the Kennedys were running for office.

"Now I'm retired and I want to do what I can to help a good man become president," Thomas said.

Thomas is playing the role of a rookie on a team in a decade-long slump. Democrats generally concede that they've done a dismal job in getting out the vote in the last three statewide elections.

Democrats say this year will be different. The party wants to exceed the 2004 turnout of 64 percent.

However, Republicans have practically written a book on how to deliver your supporters to the polls.

Early voting starts October 20 and ends Nov 1. The last day to request a vote by mail ballot is October 29. Voters can expect to hear from Democratic and Republican neighbors as those dates approach.