No campaign, no gain
Local Obama backers, McCain crusaders and homeless advocates pave the road to the White House with brow sweat.
It’s 11:30am on a mid-October Saturday in a crumbling, medieval-castle–themed apartment complex in South Bend, Indiana, and no one’s home. That is, no one is answering when my boyfriend and I, armed with flyers touting Obama’s health-care plan and reminders about early voting, give the doors a chipper knock—even though we often can hear the TV blaring inside. When people do answer, we’re met with annoyed sighs as they tell us campaign workers have come by already. Such are the hurdles of canvassing, especially in a swing state where people are inundated with mail, TV commercials and canvassers. After security kicks us out of the apartment complex, we’re reassigned to a working-class neighborhood. There, we get a warmer response: Obama supporters are happy to find out where they can vote early; the requisite crazies are at least cordial when ranting (“You know what’s the next oil? Water! We’re shipping water to China right now!”); and the undecided are more willing to talk. Claudia, a middle-aged woman who often winces due to a back injury, tells us she and her self-employed husband can’t afford health insurance, and the $5,000 she owed the IRS has now escalated to $25,000. “The mafia wouldn’t charge that much interest,” she says. We commiserate and explain how Obama’s health-care plan can help. She appears to be warming to the idea of voting for Obama, but her distrust of government is strong. “I’m just going to have to pray on it,” she says. —Laura Baginski
While Barack Obama and John McCain debate how their tax plans will affect Joe the Plumber’s ambitions to buy his company, William Klee has other things on his mind. The 51-year-old has been homeless for three and a half years and spends his days selling StreetWise around DePaul University’s campus. On Tuesday 4, Klee will cast his ballot (for the first time) after a rep for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) outside of DePaul registered him. Although he doesn’t have a permanent address, Klee is able to vote thanks to a 1992 law that allows homeless people in Illinois to use an address they often frequent, such as a shelter, for registration. This September, the CCH and Cook County Clerk David Orr pushed for recognition of the law by holding a training session for shelter representatives to become deputy registrars. Though numbers are still coming in, the CCH’s Mimi Chubb says those who attended the training registered more than 550 homeless people. An excited Klee says he’s voting Obama on election day. “Obama will probably try to change things around a little bit for the middle- or lower-class people,” he says. “Whether he’s successful or not, I don’t know, but I think he’ll give it a try.” —Sheila Burt
A step in the right direction
The headquarters of Chicago’s Grand Old Party isn’t grand at all—it’s merely a spare, one-room office in Wicker Park. Standing in the center of the room the night after the final presidential debate, Shawn Healy is explaining that, despite what a passerby just yelled through the building’s open door, John McCain doesn’t suck. “People say he doesn’t know economics. What? He chaired the Senate Commerce Committee,” says Healy, the 33-year-old cochair of the Illinois Young Professionals for McCain (YPs) and a poli-sci Ph.D. student at UIC. “What does Barack know about economics? He’s never run anything. He hasn’t even run a Dairy Queen.” That line gets a big laugh out of the eight twentysomethings—all either members of the YPs or the Chicago Young Republicans (YRs)—sitting at desks with phones glued to their ears, making calls to Wisconsin voters. Barn burners in the 2000 and 2004 elections saw President Bush lose Wisconsin by a very slim margin, and Healy and his troops—recruited through Facebook and a series of pub crawls—are out to make sure that won’t happen again. Two days from now, says Jeremy Rose, the political director of the Chicago YRs, a large group of YRs from red states such as Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana will fly into O’Hare and be bused up to Wisconsin to canvass. “Here in Illinois, people react like [Young Republicans] are some kind of endangered species, like we’re that lone cougar,” Healy says. “We’ve been pushed around and kicked out of booths at neighborhood festivals that we paid for. But then you come here and realize there’s a whole den of cougars.” —Jake Malooley