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Today on MSNBC, political pundit Roger Simon said the way to win elections in 2008 is to attract a core of people "who go door-to-door . . . friend-to-friend." That's the essence of grassroots politics.
This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) I'll be discussing a political operative, Sharon Caliendo of Norman, Oklahoma, who's an expert in the kind of politics described by Roger Simon. If you scroll down to the previous column, you'll see how Sharon and her friends helped ensure the election of conservative Tom Coburn, in his race for a Senate seat.
In fact, Sharon's effort went one better than the door-to-door approach. She and her co-workers went where the people were: specifically, to the huge crowds that attended University of Oklahoma football games. In Oklahoma, the political activists handed out tee-shirts that promoted both the football team and the candidate. It would be possible to sell such tee-shirts, but it's better (if the campaign can afford it) to hand them out for free -- and encourage people to put them on right away.
She indicates the same approach would work country-wide.
The following are some additional comments by Sharon on the Coburn grassroots effort:
Added some more to the Coburn grassroots. It really needs to be an example for any candidate running a campaign on what they can do to get the grassroots involved.
Dr. Coburn held BBQ's around the state with free hamburgers/chips/drinks to recruit volunteers along with town hall meetings. The guy that did the grilling was a BBQ guru from the Tulsa area who made the best hamburgers. We held one at the OU duck pond and about 75 people turned out to the event and out of the 75, we recruited 63 of them to help and it was repeated around the State and it just kept growing. Most amazing thing I have ever been involved with.
I will never forget when Dr. Tom won our County straw poll and was the only candidate there without a group of paid staffers but we won. I was Coburn rep for counting ballots and will never forget the look on Humphrey's campaign aide's faces when Dr. Tom won -- priceless. I live in the 3rd largest county and that was the beginning of a win for Dr. Tom who has never lost a race. In fact he won his House seat in an area that is heavily Dem and we haven't had a Republican since he left.
Hearing Dr. Tom speak today [at the CPAC convention shere he introduced John McCain] brought back all those great memories from his campaign.