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Republicans hit pavement in Greensboro

by Eric Ginsburg

BY ERIC GINSBURG eric@yesweekly.com

Shortly after the bus pulled down the street to drop kids off after school, cars began to pull up in front of a house on Southwind Road in a quiet northern Greensboro neighborhood sandwiched between Lawndale Avenue and Lake Jeanette. If yard signs are any indication, the neighborhood is tipped slightly in Obama’s favor, but the nearly 30 canvassers — most of them volunteers — didn’t seem to notice.

They came from Forsyth, Surry and Stokes counties to volunteer their time, knocking on doors for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in what several of them, despite the gray and white in their hair, said is the most important election of their lifetime. Waiting for a special guest before they split up with their clipboards, a group of women introduced themselves to each other and traded reasons for their work.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been this far in debt,” a woman from Jamestown remarked, and several others agreed before listing other reasons they opposed the current president, ranging from his immigration and foreign policies to alleged attacks on the Second Amendment. Most were in agreement that government spending and regulation are out of control, with one saying she’d cut every department by 20 percent.

“I’d cut education first,” one woman said, saying that spending on schools had increased but there was nothing to show for it. She turned to the woman next to her and changed the subject, asking why people couldn’t use the term “radical Islamic terrorists” and remarking that Obama is a Muslim, though in fact he is actually a Christian.

The neighborhood chosen for the day’s canvassing efforts last week is in precinct G27, which is predominantly white and has nearly equal numbers of registered Democrats and Republicans while slightly more than a quarter of all voters are unaffiliated. Obama carried the precinct by 128 votes out of 2,305 ballots cast in 2008, yet the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates split the votes evenly that same year.

Many of the volunteers waiting on Southwind Road said it was their first time canvassing, but those who had been around longer joked that they were the ones responsible for the 2010 Republican victory in taking the NC General Assembly and US Congress. After a brief wait the volunteers and staffers saw the man of the hour walking towards them in the middle of the quiet street — Mitt Romney’s son Tagg.

In town briefly after an event in High Point, Tagg’s goal was to energize the canvassers before heading back to the county Republican headquarters for an ice cream social. Speaking to the volunteers and the media, he said it was his job to be a character witness for his father. There’s never been someone as competent running for president in his lifetime, the candidate’s son said, adding that his father is a good man.

“He loves his country, he loves God and he loves his neighbors,” Romney said. “Thank you for doing this. You’re playing a big role.”

With two college student volunteers at his side and a gaggle of camera crews behind him, Romney knocked on two doors before answering reporters’ questions and heading to the social as volunteers spread out to cover the neighborhood.

At the first house, Kat Cline answered the door and welcomed her visitors inside. Cline said the party had approached her to see if she would be available for canvassers at the time but was surprised to see the younger Romney at her door. Before he left she said she found a lapel pin of the state flower for him and a magnet of a cardinal for his wife.

Cline, a lifelong Guilford County resident, said she has been active in the Republican Party since 2004 when she had time to get involved. She served a term as the president Wake Up Republican Women ending last year, and is currently the treasurer for Republican candidate Olga Morgan Wright in House District 58.

Victory Campaign Regional Field Director Chance Lambeth said he wasn’t sure if the houses were chosen for any particular reason, and on the ground Rachel Adams, the North Carolina communications director for the Republican National Committee, said they had called ahead to make sure people would be home since Romney’s time was limited.

At the house next door, a man with Republican signs in his yard answered the door, and after introducing himself Romney asked him about his dog as he had done with Cline. After hearing that the man recently lost his job, Romney said his father would get government out of the way and implement a plan to get 12 million people back to work.

“This has been the worst recovery we’ve ever had,” said Romney, adding that he wasn’t sure it should even be called a recovery. “This is the reason he’s running, he’s worried about people like you.”

Before the volunteers hit the streets, Victory campaign staffer Mindy Moorman briefed them on the canvassing approach at the county headquarters, suggesting people pair up to use the scripts for the brief survey to gauge support from possible and probable Republican voters and to push absentee and early voting.

“We are targeting like-minded people so you’re not getting a lot of pushback,” she said, telling volunteers how much their involvement mattered and sharing the story of one woman who makes 200 calls a day to emphasize the difference one person can make.

A significant number of calls have been placed from their office, where the state flags hang around the edges of the large, open room filled with campaign material for different candidates and with Fox News playing in the background. On Sept. 20, there was a friendly challenge between Greensboro and Miami to see who could place more calls, the Guilford County GOP website says, and Gate City volunteers “crushed the competition,” breaking the record for most calls in a day from an office in North Carolina by about 3,000 calls.

Walking down Southwind Road to the assigned houses on their sheet, the two student volunteers who had briefly knocked on doors with Tagg Romney pressed on. Trading off who read from the script and who marked down the responses, NC A&T University senior Laron Wise and UNCG junior Christian Zamora approached the assigned houses on their clipboard.

A man answered the first door, telling the pair he didn’t vote or follow politics. As Wise, a New Jersey native, tried to continue to survey who the man planned to vote for in various races, the resident reiterated that he didn’t vote in general.

Wise and Zamora, sporting Romney/ Ryan stickers on their shirts like the other volunteers, didn’t explain why they supported the Republican nominees to the residents, instead sticking to the script. At the second house on their list, a woman answered the door and said she was undecided but if she had to decide that day, Romney couldn’t count on her vote.

“I just don’t feel that they’re giving me any answers,” she said.

Zamora, a political science major who grew up in el Salvador before moving to Mount Airy, said she could go to Romney’s website to learn about his positions, but she cut him off once he mentioned foreign policy. She said the Republican candidate didn’t know what he was talking about and didn’t have any experience when it came to foreign policy but that she was looking forward to the debates.

The pair stopped at one more house before deciding to drive back to headquarters for the ice cream social with Romney, which was already underway. Checking their list and walking between houses, the two joked with each other and expressed their displeasure with the current administration.

“Obama is a sham,” said Wise, who wore jeans like Romney and a tie over his red shirt, adding that the “hope and change” rhetoric of the previous election hadn’t amounted to anything.

At the final house Wise asked the man who answered if the person listed at the address still lived there. The name on their sheet was his ex, and Wise was unsure how to mark it, so he skipped to the closing statement of the survey and Zamora said he would make a mental note about the change of address. The resident offered that he was an unaffiliated voter, and as they had at the other houses, Wise and Zamora left him with some campaign literature.

CORRECTION

An article published in the Sept. 19 issue of YES! Weekly, “New program moves residents out of public housing,” contained an error. The article quoted Housing Authority of Winston-Salem CEO Larry Woods as saying that the Winston-Salem Foundation had agreed to award $1 million annually to provide tuition assistance to Path participants. In fact, Woods said the grant is not exclusively for Path participants, but they would be eligible to apply for assistance.

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