Joe Lavin

March 4, 2008

Phoning it in for the Candidates

Lately, I've been checking out the web sites of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. This is mainly because I somehow ended up on both their mailing lists, and I get umpteen e-mails every day from each campaign (margin of error: +/- one ump). Lately, Clinton has been asking me to contribute as little as five dollars, while Obama has been asking me to help him reach his goal of making one and a half million phone calls by today.

Both requests seem odd. I know that every little bit matters, but really doesn’t asking for only five dollars seem a bit desperate? "For just the price of one coffee at Starbucks, you too can help an undernourished campaign." There was a recent New York Times article detailing all the expenditures of the Clinton campaign, including $11,000 on pizza in January and $1,200 on trips to Dunkin' Donuts. And those numbers don't even include the donuts for Bill, so in short the campaign may well be starving. Please find it in your hearts to help.

As for Obama's plan to make a million and a half calls, you have to wonder if that might start to annoy voters at some point. Let's just say that an unsolicited call from a campaign doesn't always spur me to support them. How many undecided Democratic voters are there in these states anyway?

I'm amazed at how easy it is now to call voters. It used to be that, if you wanted to make phone calls for a campaign, you had to go to the campaign office, but now you can just sign up on their web site, download the phone numbers, and make calls from your own home. Both campaigns are doing this, although the Clinton campaign isn't quite ambitious enough to set a goal of a million and a half calls. "Help us make just five phone calls before March 4th…."

With just a few clicks at Obama's site, I was able to get the numbers of Tiffany, Marquita, and Scottie in Texas. You know, there's no better way to win over a Texas voter than to call from Massachusetts. Meanwhile, at, I got phone numbers for several voters in Rhode Island. If you can hold on just a minute, I have to go call Carlos in Pawtucket. I'll be right back.

I'm still surprised that the campaigns are doing this, and I wonder if Carlos knows his number is on the Internet. (I suppose I could call him up and ask.) There are no last names listed, but it's still strange. While this is convenient for the campaigns, it just seems like the system could be easily abused.

And I can just see the last minute attack commercials: "It's 3 o'clock in the morning, and the phone is ringing. Wait, it's the freakin' Obama campaign! Again! Vote the candidate with the experience not to call you at three in the morning. Vote Clinton."

At both web sites, you can also become part of the movement by joining a group. Current Clinton groups include:

Albanians for Clinton (This year, it may well come down to the Albanian caucuses in June.)
Atheists and Agnostics who support Hillary (maybe)
Bowlers for Hillary ("USBC sanctioned bowlers speak out for America." Not to be an elitist, but you non-USBC sanctioned bowlers will have to find your own damn group.)

Next, I checked out (This is not to be confused with, which is only available to lobbyists.) Here, I could be a Skateboarder for Obama or an Accordion Player for Obama. There is even the Central Florida Lawyers for Obama group, you know, because that's really going to bring in the voters. ("Senator, I'm happy to concede the point. I would reject and denounce the Central Florida Lawyers.")

Still, the Obama site does have one advantage over the Clinton site. You can score points at the Obama site, and frankly I love points. So far, I have 30 of them, 25 points for creating an account and 5 points for attending an Obama event last summer.

I am currently tied for 315,422nd place, although once you factor in the superdelegates I'll be sure to surge past 300,000th place. I haven't yet figured out what you get for the points, but that's not important right now. All you need to know is that Obama gives out points, while there are no points whatsoever at the Clinton site, a stunning oversight that makes one wonder if she really can be an effective leader.

In case you're wondering, you can earn these points any number of ways -- by attending Obama campaign events, by logging onto his web site, by wooing superdelegates, by calling poor Scottie in Texas, or quite possibly by sitting on your couch and imagining that you've already earned the points. Sometimes, all you have to do is believe.

©2008 Joe Lavin

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