SAN JOSE, CA — Just now I was reading the California newspapers from my fold-out table in Obama HQ when a woman sat down at my elbow and logged into a MacBook. She hunted and pecked, fretting over her email. I figured her for just another first-time volunteer. Turns out she was U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, pecking out an email to the county’s top voting official. You’ve got to love Lofgren–if not because she’s campaigning for Obama, then for her ability to carry off the standard-issue DC pantsuit along with a very cool pair of blue-and-pink silk Chinese slippers.
Lofgren and her son had just come from eating lunch downtown at Teske’s Germania, where she dines before every election. She’d ordered a gigantic pork shank. “It’s kind of a good luck charm,” she said. “I was going to actually order a salad because I’ve been trying to lose weight, but I didn’t want to break the luck.”
Lofgren has been in Congress for 14 years and has never seen an election bring in so many new volunteers. “In a Democratic event I walk in and I know everybody by name,” she said, looking around the room. “These are all new people.” Most volunteers didn’t know her either–no crowd had gathered round until word got out who she was.
This is to be expected of a campaign that has harnessed a new wave of young voters. Several guys working the phones right now haven’t even started growing facial hair. It’s fun to watch these kids make things up as they go. This morning San Jose State student Sarah Bronstein was talking with another college kid about the Obama pitch they were reciting over the phone to voters. “It’s a shitty script,” she said. “They should write is as if someone is actually talking.” So she tweaked it–one of countless of small examples today of DIY.
Excitement today goes beyond young people and Obama. This is the first time in recent history that California has played such a prominent role in choosing the presidential candidate, and the first time since the ’50s that the election didn’t feature an incumbent president or VP. Turnout is expected to resemble the much higher numbers of a general election. Of course, the bigger crowds at the polls have made snags more likely–which is why Lofgren has swooped in to fire off an email to the county elections chief. Obama staffers here had received a few reports that poll workers were incorrectly telling independent voters that they couldn’t vote in the Democratic primary. If that problem becomes widespread, it would favor Clinton and hurt Obama, who polls better among independents.
Update: Lofgren’s concern appears to have been merited. The Washington Post reports that confusion over independent voters and Democratic ballots has been widespread. Still, it does not yet appear to be a major factor in the race.