October
6th 2008
Signs and the “Times”: focus on Potterville

Posted under: American history, local news

Wow–my sweet, quiet, former-utopian-colony town made the big-time today in a “Road to November” video featured on the front page of the New York Times.  (Permalink to the video is here–check it out; h/t to reader K.N. for alerting me.)  I think it’s a fair overview of what’s going on here.  However, I don’t see a battle over yard signs–yet anyway–which has concerned me.  Four years ago, people had their Kerry/Edwards signs out in force in September, and there was a lot of intensity among Democrats and Independents because of their rage and frustration about George W. Bush.  Here in Potterville, I don’t think there’s as much positive intensity for Obama, as the first (and still majority of) yard signs I saw were McCain signs, even in my neighborhood, which has more liberalish intellectualish people because of its proximity to Moo Moo U. (also featured in the video).

Although I’m a Democrat (and on every local and national candidate’s fundraising list), no one from the Barack Obama campaign has yet contacted me to ask me to put out a yard sign.  I understand the focus is on registering new voters (and firing up the kids with a visit from Eva Longoria Parker), so maybe longtime Dems, regular voters, and homeowners aren’t high on their list right now.  (Still–I think it would do the Obama campaign some good to get off of the college campuses once in a while.  I remember that we all though the college kids with their cell phones would put Kerry over the top–and I’m reluctant to swallow that line again until the kids deliver like middle-aged and senior voters do for the Dems.)

14 Comments »

14 Responses to “Signs and the “Times”: focus on Potterville”

  1. nicole on 06 Oct 2008 at 7:53 am #

    Really? I’ve had three phone calls and two house visits- and I don’t live all that close to campus.

  2. Profane on 06 Oct 2008 at 7:54 am #

    I was reading somewhere (I have forgotten where, hopefully someone can help) that many Obama supporters have been unable to get signs even when they asked for them. The calculus for the Obama campaign is that yard signs are close to being the worst way to spend money.

  3. Rose on 06 Oct 2008 at 8:07 am #

    I think the NYT misses a lot of what I remember as going on in Greeley–the utter disconnection between the town and the university (which is, after all, on the “bad” east side), and the race issue that’s always bubbling under the surface and never directly addressed. If Greeley carries Obama, I’ll eat my ten-gallon hat! Still, it was fun to see scenes from town–Moo Moo U, the park down the street from my old house, Cazadore’s (why did the NYT go *there*, of all places?).

  4. ej on 06 Oct 2008 at 8:18 am #

    Even in Fort Collins, Obama yard signs have been scarce. The campaign hasn’t spent money on them. They feel that personally reaching out to voters is much more effective, and I would argue much less unsightly.

    I agree with Rose, though. If Greeley, of all places, is representative of the Democratic surge in Colorado, I’ll eat my cowboy boots!

  5. Smith Michaels on 06 Oct 2008 at 8:31 am #

    re: yard signs:

    At most local Obama headquarters the distribution of yard signs is based on one volunteering, either to phone bank or canvas. Sometimes at big rallies you can get a yard sign but this is uncommon. There are a couple of reasons for this:

    1.) The official Obama campaign stance (as I understand it) is that face to face, voter to voter contact is more important than yard signs or bumper stickers. According to this theory, people don’t vote because they see that their neighbors all have Obama or McCain yard signs but because a fellow voter took the time to talk to them face to face.

    2.) The Obama “swag” that a local office gets from the central campaign is tied to their meeting certain quotas, especially with regards to phone banking. Thus if you don’t meet your quotas no swag. Thus local offices are very stingy with what swag they do have, especially the much valued yard signs.

    I think the Obama stance has a lot going for it but there are some problems. Namely, that tying volunteering to swag reduces the total amount of stuff with Obama’s name on it in circulation. This can reduce the chances of marginal voters turning out for you. These sort of voters can look around their neighborhood and see vey little Obama stuff and they think that he’s doomed and that their vote doesn’t matter. So they don’t even bother to vote. In close election this can hurt you. A lot.

    At the same time, blanketing an place with your swag doesn’t necessarily mean victory. When I was working for Kerry in 2004 in WV, we had more shit than we knew what to do with. Somewhere I still have a bag full of Kerry/Edwards buttons that we just could not give away. Being saturated in Kerry swag ended up doing nothing for us.

    Thus there is a difficult balance I think, one that only hindsight can really judge.

  6. Indyanna on 06 Oct 2008 at 9:48 am #

    Back when I was a college kid, we thought college kids were going to topple the whole system. And I guess we, um, well, did… But that’s a long story. Anyway, do-over. We don’t have yards here in central Philly, but in the battle of the window signs, it’s no contest, albeit a pretty low intensity version of no contest. I did see my first McCain-Palin window sign last night, some brave individualist(s) over on Spruce Street. Otherwise, all or most of the holdout Hillary signs (including mine) have come down, and it’s pretty much all Obama. I do think they’re mostly for local psychic reinforcement, but that’s not an irrelevant measure of impending effectiveness.

    Just to report on the supposedly-critical Philadelphia western suburbs, it’s now being said that Republican local chiefs–who are used to ruling there–are looking madly for bridges to jump off of. This may be critical, as Pennsylvania is still being listed as contested territory, and the swath of interior rural PA that I drove through on Friday was a blurred wilderness of McCain lawn cardboard.

    Have to check this flick out as soon as I get back west tonight.

  7. Historiann on 06 Oct 2008 at 9:48 am #

    Smith Michaels–thanks for your insider explanation. You’ve hit on my concern exactly when you write:

    This can reduce the chances of marginal voters turning out for you. These sort of voters can look around their neighborhood and see vey little Obama stuff and they think that he’s doomed and that their vote doesn’t matter. So they don’t even bother to vote. In close election this can hurt you. A lot.

    Four years ago, it was really exciting to see so many Kerry/Edwards signs around in such an overwhelmingly Republican town in an overwhelmingly Republican CD. It helped energize a lot of volunteers–believe me, it was more fun to canvass when you saw at least a few Kerry signs in people’s lawns, and not just Bush signs. I understand the Obama campaign’s *Personal Touch* evangelism, but Obama will need the support of over-40 homeowners in addition to the college kids. So, I don’t quite understand the campaign’s “frugality,” from this perspective. (And, I think it will look strange to see my yard, for example, which has/will have signs out supporting Dems up and down the ticket, but no Obama sign. Don’t you? Riesberg, Markey, Udall–and no one else?)

    And ej, thanks for confirming what I’ve also (not) seen in FC. The Obama campaign is out in force at Baa Ram U. between 11 and 2 every day signing up voters (today is the last day to register!!!), but I don’t get why the campaign wouldn’t want to increase the feeling of Obama support in neighborhoods.

  8. Erica on 06 Oct 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    What I’ve seen thus far in South Carolina is only yard signs for local elections (school board, state seats, etc), pretty much nothing for either Obama or McCain. However, there are a lot of people with Obama T-shirts, and I’ve seen no McCain/Palin T-shirts.

  9. Historiann on 06 Oct 2008 at 12:03 pm #

    It concerns me that even in my neighborhood, which is the part of town that has the most reliable Dem vote, there are way more Republican signs out there than any Dem signs, and there are zero Obama signs even in yards with other Dem signs.

  10. Historiann on 06 Oct 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    UPDATE: There are now 3 Obama/Biden signs in my neighborhood that I hadn’t seen before today, but my across-the-street neighbors are flying the McCain/Palin pennant.

  11. Indyanna on 06 Oct 2008 at 5:52 pm #

    It was a nice video and it was good to get a looksee at Tree City. They kept interviewing the same three people or couples over and over though. Which day’s _Times_ was it in? I didn’t see it this morning. I just re-crossed the rural terrain I described in this morning’s note, and a few lonely Obama signs have infiltrated the wilderness. Here in the college town, not surprisingly, it’s pretty much all-Obama.

    If the market keeps dropping 300+ points a day we may have to scramble to get an election held at all. Check out New York City, where Mike Bloomberg has done an all-Rudy, claiming that only a billionaire like himself can afford to try to keep the town afloat in this economy, and so trying to pull an end-run on a term limits law.

  12. Rad Readr on 07 Oct 2008 at 2:19 am #

    Not too many signs out for anyone near the beach. Not even open houses from the real estate people. Interestingly, bumper stickers are not very visible either — in contrast to the Kerry/Edwards stickers we all had. In any case, if the Obama campaign is doing something (anything!) differently than the Kerry campaign, then more power to them. Smith Michaels raises a good question about how much signs matter — I suspect they help buid morale for the people who put them up, but not sure they influence actual votes.

    I imagine the campaign won’t send any signs or stickers to Cali — Obama is up by 17 points. But they did just open a new campaign office down the hill, and it’s filled with people calling NEvada and organizing caravans. Viva Last Vegas!

  13. Swing state election news and notes : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 19 Oct 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    [...] of the times update:  The yard sign battle in my neighborhood, which was once so lopsided, is now being won decisively by Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates.  The week after I [...]

  14. Exclusive report: Joe rocked the rally at Moo Moo U. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 21 Oct 2008 at 8:00 pm #

    [...] I was unable to fathom more than a few hundred folks attending this event. In spite of the recent New York Times’ claim that Potterville is up for grabs, Republicans dominate Weld county! And I’ve always thought that even the student body leans [...]

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