I’ll be writing to you today from the Obama campaign office in San Jose, California. It’s one of six Obama offices in the Bay Area, but the battle here will be one of the most closely fought and important anywhere in the state (more on this shortly). The office is a small storefront in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood just outside downtown. Inside, posters on the wall say, “Fired up!” and, for those who’ve been here a bit too long, “Bang head here.” The space lacks any heat (save for two space heaters–any more and the circuit breaker pops) but the 20 people packing into the place are keeping things warm enough. I’ve sandwiched myself into a row of clicking laptops on a fold-out table in the middle of the room. Everyone is working on getting out the vote; whenever a phone-banker convinces someone to vote Obama, he rings a bell and the room erupts in applause.
The volunteers here have their work cut out for them. San Jose’s CA-15 congressional district is one of only 22 in the state with an odd number of delegates; whoever wins 51 percent of the vote in these districts will automatically pick up an extra delegate. (Most California districts are even-delegate and will likely to split between the candidates 50/50). Only about half of the odd-delate districts in the state will be truly competitive. CA-15 is one of those: Here in the Bay Area, Obama leads Clinton overall, but San Jose is predominately working class and has more Latino voters than any other county in the region–two groups that tend to support Clinton.
On Thursday I explored the San Jose team’s effort to capture more of the Latino vote. The head of the office’s Latino outreach effort, Eric Hernandez, hasn’t yet made it into the office today, and there’s a conspicuous lack of Latinos here. A few minutes ago, a phone bank operator caught a Spanish-speaker on the line and asked if anyone could speak with her. In mangled Spanish a kid shouted out “Puedo hablar Espanol?” The response from another guy: “Negetron!” At least they’re trying.
This morning, the local ABC affiliate stopped by and interviewed a young Obama supporter, 19-year old San Jose State poly-sci major Sarah Bronstein. She said this is the first time in history a presidential candidate has opened up a campaign office in San Jose. I’m not sure if that’s true, but what’s clear is that Clinton does not have an office here. The question is whether the Obama presence here can hit the pavement and phone lines hard enough today to make a difference.