ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA—The daycare of a church named Shiloh Baptist isn't where you'd expect to locate the epicenter of President Obama's hopes for being re-elected. Inside, boxes of Toy Story fruit snacks, miniature scissors, and the occasional errant, bewildered toddler indicate the building's primary purpose, but the string of Obama-Biden yard signs marks this as the spot. While half of the building maintains its original use, the other has been taken over as an Obama field office. About 60 volunteers cram every nook and cranny of the second floor. They line the hallway walls, sitting on folding chairs or cross-legged on the floor, speaking softly into their cell phones, gently reminding voters to head to the polls. A chorus of voices echo the message: "This is so-and-so from the Obama campaign, calling you from Alexandria to see if you have voted today."
“Thank you for what you are doing.” Liz Childress, a 22-year-old volunteer for the Obama campaign, heard this refrain as she knocked on doors in Church Hill, a predominately African American neighborhood east of downtown Richmond, where dilapidated vacant homes dominate many of the blocks.
Childress, in a navy pea coat with a Joe Biden pin fastened to the lapel, was canvassing as part of the Obama team’s final get-out-the-vote effort in Virginia. Gone were the days when the campaign sought to reach persuadable undecided voters. Even a week ago, Childress would have talked up Barack Obama to everyone she encountered, with arguments on why the president deserved their support. On the final weekend before Election Day, though, the campaign was pursuing a different strategy: Childress was only checking in with reliable Democrats and reminding them to go to the polls. From the Democratic signs in almost everyone’s yard to the “Occupy Richmond, VA,” spray-painted on a brick wall, Church Hill was clearly Obama territory.
Mitt Romney and Lincoln Chafee have surprisingly similar family backgrounds, both the product of prominent Republican households. Their fathers governed states as Rockefeller Republicans—George Romney in Michigan, John Chafee in Rhode Island—then served together in Richard Nixon's cabinet. The sons followed their fathers' molds as moderate Northeastern Republicans to great success a decade ago. Romney became the governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and Chafee replaced his father in the Senate, each serving one term in their respective roles.
On a rainy Sunday night in Madison, Wisconsin, 30 energized volunteers turned out at the Democratic headquarters on State Street to register University of Wisconsin students to vote. Tammy Baldwin, sporting a magenta blazer, milled about, chatting with the constituents she represents in the U.S. House. Come January, she'll either be out of Congress or representing a larger swath of the state in the U.S. Senate.
Facing former four-term Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, Baldwin is locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country. Most recent polls have her favored by a slim margin, with Real Clear Politics' average putting her up by just 0.3 percent. It's been a brutal few years for Democrats in Wisconsin. The state elected and re-elected one of the nation's most right-wing governors, launched Paul Ryan into the national spotlight, and voted out progressive icon Russ Feingold. If Baldwin wins, though, she will disprove conservatives' claims that Wisconsin is no longer a bastion for progressive politics.
Paul Ryan's congressional district should be prime swing territory for Democrats. The party held the seat from the 1970s through the mid '90s, and it switches its allegiances during presidential years, voting for Bush in '04 but flipping to Obama in '08. Yet for some reason Democrats haven't bothered lately to field a serious opponent against Ryan. Ryan—the boyish-faced Rage Against the Machine rocker who wears a backwards baseball cap to workout—might look like he just stepped out his college frat house before joining Mitt Romney on the Republican national ticket, but he's actually be in office since 1998, with nary a threat to his seat. This time, Rob Zerban just might be up to the task. Zerban, who formerly owned a catering business in the area, is a staunch liberal, supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget and wanting to shift the health care system to a single-payer one, what he terms "Medicare for all." There's reason for him to be hopeful. Ryan's draconian budget hasn't played well in a district full of seniors who rely on Social Security and Medicare. Zerban raised nearly $2 million through the end of September, and is running a ad against Ryan's Medicare proposals, calling them stingy. Zerban's campaign released an internal poll in early September that put him just 8-points behind Ryan; striking distance.