- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2008

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Democratic presidential candidates are holding town hall meetings and rallies across Texas and Ohio, but their strategies for winning those states on March 4 come down to the crucial organization battles waged by their volunteers on the ground.

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned over the weekend in both states, but between their stump speeches, volunteers were busy working phone banks in Ohio, campaigning at early voting locations in Texas and generating enthusiasm before the candidates took the stage at rallies.

The Obama campaign is educating voters on the so-called “Texas Two-Step” — saying it’s “a little bit complicated” but Democrats can “early vote” before heading to the March 4 caucuses.

“How many of you have already voted?” volunteer coordinator Ian Davis asked before an Austin, Texas, rally. At least 500 hands shot up and the crowd cheered. “Everyone who didn’t scream needs to go vote tomorrow.”

“You guys are what our campaign has the others don’t,” he told the crowd.

The Clinton campaign shifted most of its resources to Texas and Ohio immediately after Super Tuesday, allowing time to organize. The campaign is emphasizing early voting and has hosted events near polling locations, encouraging voters to choose the senator from New York on the spot.

Many of the Clinton staffers who were moved to Texas and Ohio had been in Nevada and New Mexico, states she won in part because of their efforts.

Visitors to Mrs. Clinton’s Texas page are asked, “Have you EARLY VOTED yet?”

“Why wait? You can vote for Hillary NOW — it’s easy,” staffer Saul Shemesh blogs on the page. “Avoid the lines and make sure your voice is heard because there is too much at stake and the future is too important to take a chance on inexperience.”

“Here in Texas you are lucky enough to vote twice,” another post reads.

Democrats can participate in the caucuses only if they voted in the primary. The winner of the caucuses will garner additional delegates.

Obama volunteers hosted nearly 300 “Vote Early for Change” house parties Saturday, similar to efforts that helped him win the Iowa caucuses.

Mrs. Clinton’s Ohio state director, Robby Mook, said yesterday that the campaign is “making tens of thousands of calls a day” to get people to vote early.

Mr. Mook, who also was state director in Nevada, said Democrats sometimes focus on Ohio’s three “C” cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

Noting that Mrs. Clinton will campaign in Appalachia this week, he said the team has offices and volunteer centers in each congressional district.

“We are all over the state; our presence is everywhere,” he said.

Before each event, Obama organizers ask the crowd to “vote today” or first thing tomorrow, so they are free to help make phone calls, knock on doors, get out the vote and, most importantly, caucus on March 4.

“Go to the caucus and get Obama a few more delegates,” the senator from Illinois said in Austin, a critical point as the two Democrats inch their way delegate by delegate to win the nomination.

The next night in Cleveland, Mr. Obama told his supporters to “do what the cool people do: vote early.”

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