Obama’s Outreach in What Was Hailed as Hillary’s Ohio

On a brisk Saturday afternoon, Amy Rock and Dottie Dutro set up a table and two chairs in front of Bettys Fine Food and Spirits. Rock couldn’t find the banner she had to hang over the table, but instead she made do with handmade posters and blue painters tape. Rock, who pulled out hand warmers from her box of supplies, offered them to Dutro who declined.

“I’m dressed for 20 below,” Dutro said. I can be here all night.”

Amy Rock and Dottie Dutro set-up Obama table in Columbus' Short North district.

It may have been luck, but Rock decided to table on the Saturday before the Ohio Primary in the Short North because every first Saturday of the month the area stores host a gallery hop, which entices people from all over Central Ohio to come and view artwork and listen to great music. This weekend however, Columbus played host to the Arnold Classic and an Ultimate Fighting Championship match at Nationwide Arena. Needless to say, the foot and car traffic in front of the table was continuous.

One man walked by, looked at the Barack Obama “change” fliers and asked out loud, “Change from what?”

Rock said, “Change from the lobbyists, for one.” A few minutes later, a red Jeep Grand Cherokee drove southbound on High Street and some yelled from inside the car, “Obama sucks!”

Rock turned and said, “We get that all the time.”

Amy Rock’s dogs sport Obama bandanas.

After Rock set up her small table with Obama literature on High Street, Carole Campbell, 69, walked over. She was there to volunteer.

Campbell, dressed in a long black overcoat with a Barack Obama pin on the lapel, said she began her support of Obama after he announced he would run for President.

“I heard him speak at the Democratic Convention on 2004,” she said. “And I told myself that if he ran for president, I would vote for him.

Campbell, who voted for John F. Kennedy, said that Obama reminded her of him.

“I think he is another John F. Kennedy,” she said. “It’s obvious he’s making people care.”

Carole Campbell for Obama

The volunteer schedule that Rock set up had people taking turns every hour. At 3 pm, Bess Bolton, 59, took charge. As people passed by, Bolton asked them if they would like some literature. A few said, “I’m with him, I got it,” while others just walked on by and muttered, “No, thanks.”

When asked how race has influenced the election in Ohio, Bolton said that the white Obama voters, “are looking beyond color.”

“They are looking at the possibility of change,” she said.

Bolton stands next to Nicholson.

By her side stood Michael Nicholson, 31, a New York transplant to Ohio, who added that people want inspiration.

“He’s very inspiring and the best leaders were very inspiring,” said Nicholson about Obama. “Instead of saying I am a leader and do as I say, he excites people to participate.”

Bolton said she liked Obama because she wanted a change.

“I want the lobbyists out of Washington,” she said. “I’m not happy with what’s been going on. I want the people heard.”

Russ Goodwin, congressional candidate for the 12th congressional district of Ohio, walked by the Obama table in front of Bettys’ and stopped to talk to Bolton and Nicholson.

“I’m about this far away from making a decision,” said Goodwin holding his pointer finger and thumb about an inch apart. “I’m in the same position as many people in Ohio. In Ohio, we didn’t think we would have to make this decision.”

Goodwin at Obama table.

Goodwin, who supported John Edwards in 2004 and again in this election, said that this presidential campaign started off with eight great democratic contenders.

“But I’m this close,” he said closing the gap between his fingers. Goodwin admitted he attended the Obama rally sponsored by Mayor Michael Coleman earlier that morning. Mayor Coleman supports Obama.

The Arnold Classic, which began 20 years ago, brought all kinds of people to Columbus for a weekend of bodybuilding competitions, wrestling and powerlifting among many other events. Mark Williamson, marketing manager for A1 Sports Ltd in London, came to showcase his company’s products. Though he stopped by the Obama table to ask for directions, he shared how he viewed the U.S. 2008 presidential campaign.

Karla Moore and Mark Williamson came across the Atlantic for the Arnold Classic.

“Generally in the United Kingdom or Europe, people don’t think a great deal about American foreign policy,” said Williamson when asked about the different candidates’ foreign policy approaches. “Americans don’t understand what goes on outside America.”

The 4 o’clock volunteer drove up from Pickaway County, Ohio roughly about 45 minutes south of Columbus. Mark Williams, 48, a democratic delegate for Obama said that if Obama got over 50 percent of the vote in Ohio, he would be able to go to the convention. Like Carole Campbell and many others, Williams said that he began to wear his Obama t-shirts after Obama announced his presidency in Spring 2006.

“Barack Obama materials, are you interested? ” Williams said to the passersby he towered over. Some of the people who stopped at the desk asked for Obama pins, but since none had been available all day, Williams referred them over to the Obama office at 193 E. Rich Street. “The process is working,” said Williams. “People are talking, people are making a difference. People are energetic. We are changing history whether its for Barack or Hillary.”

Mark Williams speaks to Obama supporters on High Street.

Williams realized that his local involvement in the 7th House District in Ohio needed to also have a national effect. That’s why he got involved.

“I have a 22 year-old son who is an artist,” said Williams. “I hope that he has learned that if he has a passion, he should follow that passion. I hope that is what I’m doing.

One man, who carried some dry cleaning, stopped by and told Williams that though he was an independent he would vote for Obama. Greg Baker, a South African emigre to the United States, said he like Obama from the beginning.

“He’s breaking all the rules and he’s the first candidate I’ve contributed too,” said Baker. “We Africans look at things a little differently.”

Greg Baker and Mark Williams share stories at the Obama.

If only the black Benz had pulled up earlier, Williams would have had Obama pins to give out. However, when Stephen Daley slowed down, rolled his window and Williams noticed the Obama button on Daley’s lapel, he let out a sigh of release. “Good he’s one of us.”

Williams gathers the Obama literature and buttons from Stephen Daley's car.

Unlike Williams, Daley, 42, became an Obama volunteer in the last few weeks after he heard Obama’s victory speech the night he won the Iowa caucus. He’s knocked on doors, made phone calls and even helped the senator from Illinois open a field office in Clintonville, a small city north of Columbus.

“I got teary listening to him from my couch,” said Daley. “I got involved because I didn’t want to see Ohio blow it.”

Originally, a Hillary Clinton supporter, Daley said that Obama’s outreach into the LGBT community in Ohio has been stronger. Daley referenced an “Open Letter” that Obama sent to Outlook Weekly, a newspaper for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered community, and another letter from that the LGBT community wrote on behalf of Obama.

Stephen Daley at Union Cafe, a few blocks North on High Street.

Daley said that Obama’s reference at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta about homophobia in the Black community solidified his support for Obama.

“It’s not just that he’s saying this in front of a group,” said Daley. “It’s that he says it in front of the world.”

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