POTTSTOWN, Pa. – A middle-aged man met them at the door.
“Get off my steps!” the man screamed. “Democrat is a dirty word in this house!”
Fortunately, for the 75 Montgomery County, Md., Democrats conducting last-minute voter canvassing in Montgomery County, Pa., that wasn’t the typical response to their knocks at voters’ doors.
Better than 60 percent of Pottstown — located between Allentown, Pa., and Philadelphia — voted Democratic in 2000, which is why Maryland Delegate Anne R. Kaiser, D-Montgomery, and Art Brodsky were surprised at the man’s response at their final stop of the day.
“The whole purpose of this thing is to get the people that are with you to get out and vote,” said Brodsky.
Because Kerry holds a double-digit lead in Maryland, state Democrats are campaigning feverishly for Kerry in highly contested states. The Pottstown campaign is one of numerous efforts by Maryland Democrats to promote their party’s candidates in swing states like Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“We wanted to go where we can make a difference – to help in key battleground states if we’re not going to be a battleground state,” said Don Mooers of the Maryland Democratic Party.
The Maryland group was ready for battle, organized and fit: They came by car and bus, and then the local Democratic headquarters provided each two-to-four-person group with a list of residents and a chart to mark who they planned to vote for.
Kaiser and Brodsky had 65 voters, most living in connected, one-story townhouses. They could move quickly from house to house.
Few homes had grassy front yards, so political signs were few.
However, that didn’t mean Pottstown residents were apathetic.
One woman said she was voting for Kerry because her son was headed to Iraq. Another man said Bush should have been impeached because of how he handled the war.
All those on Kaiser and Brodsky’s voter list were registered Democrats, so strictly positive reactions were expected and received.
But one of their voters was undecided, so Kaiser jumped at the chance to grab support for Kerry.
“What issues concern you?” Kaiser asked, but the woman declined to comment and politely shut the door.
Kaiser observed that many of the houses had religious signs and figurines displayed and noted that Pottstown is a “religious, but seemingly Democratic neighborhood.”
A few Pottstown residents were surprised Marylanders were campaigning in Pennsylvania, until Kaiser and Brodsky explained Pennsylvania’s significance in the presidential election.
Democrat Al Gore won Pennsylvania by four percentage points in 2000, and Kerry holds a slight lead there this time around. Pennsylvania has 21 electoral votes.
Maryland Democrats campaigned in Pennsylvania on all but one weekend since Sept. 12, Mooers said.
Maryland Republicans have also campaigned in other states, but none of those trips were organized by the Maryland Republican Party, said Deborah Martinez, Maryland Republican Party communications director.
She said the state’s Republicans are focusing their attention on Maryland races.
Kaiser said she doesn’t remember the same interstate campaign effort occurring four years ago.
“People now know that these races can be decided by a few hundred votes,” Kaiser said, “and sending 100 people to Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, each knocking on a number of doors – it can really make a difference . . . Nothing beats the personal touch.”