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Obama’s troops back in C.R.

Michael Halle, Derek Eadon, Scott McLean and Dan Martin all came to Cedar Rapids in 2007 to work on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Battle-hardened by (and nostalgic about) the Caucus, they were back in Cedar Rapids to get out the vote for the local-option sales tax.

They’ve been working from an unheated, bare concrete room at 1430 First Ave. NE, with three conference tables, a few laptops, a couple printers, and dozens of manila envelopes full of flyers to send out with volunteers.

Barack Obama’s victory in the Iowa Presidential Caucus reshaped the way political campaigns are run, and people like Halle, Eadon, McLean and Martin, all from suburban Chicago (except McLean, who’s from Salt Lake City), are part of a vast, new cadre of political shock troops. (In January, Obama announced “Organizing for America,” a continuation of his presidential campaign that makes use of his 13 million-strong list of supporters.)

Like the Obama campaign, the sales tax campaign in Cedar Rapids was both inclusive and sophisticated.

Halle drew from contacts built in 2007, and mobilized about 75 volunteers (many of them college kids) to work on the Vote Yes! campaign. They knocked on two to three thousand doors.

But the doors were carefully chosen. Halle pulled voter lists from the Auditor’s Office, cross-referenced them and picked out voters who had a shaky turnout record in the past six elections, but who seemed like they’d probably vote for the sales tax if they actually went to the polls.

“It’s the best use of resources, to expand on the universe of people who might vote,” Halle, 24, said. “The goal is to talk to only people who are in support, and who aren’t likely to vote.”

In the last few days before Tuesday’s election, volunteers didn’t try to convince people to vote for the tax, they just tried to get people who would vote for it to go to the polls.

The Vote Yes! campaign raised $43,850 in the leadup to the election. Dale Todd, co-leader of the campaign and an active Obama supporter, called Halle a few weeks ago and hired him for about $800 a week.

In contrast, the Cedar Rapis Tea Party, which opposed the tax, raised about $650 and didn’t hire anybody to help with the campaign.

“We did not have the capital and the PR groups and stuff behind us,” said Tim Pugh, head of the group. “A lot of ours was trial and error, see what we can do.”

Door-knocking was limited.

“Some was done,” he said. “We probably had about ten, and then we had some here or there. We probably had about 40 or 50 of those.”

They didn’t try to raise much money, and they didn’t do a targeted campaign.

“You’re talking about some average people off the street, who didn’t really have the funding, and we didn’t really have the experience,” Pugh said.

The tax was approved in a landslide, gaining 59 percent of the vote. 12,968 voted for the tax, and 9,013 voted against it.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Flood, , , , , ,

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