The effort in Ohio on behalf of President Bush was a magnificent display of America’s greatness and democracy at its finest. People, young and old, sacrificed much to advance values and issues embodied in the President that are important to them.
Cuyahoga county, you’ve heard it hundreds of times on the news over the past few weeks, the literal “ground zero” of the 2004 Presidential election, was the site of an enormous effort to get out the vote. My team, recruited from Washington D.C., arrived one week before Election Day to add our services to an already large number. This was a grassroots effort like you have never seen. A paid campaign staff of a few joined a literal army of volunteers, some from far off places but a vast majority of them were locals who love the President and understand the importance of this election. Their generosity towards the cause is incredibly admirable.
Larry Russell, the Bush Cheney Campaign leader in Cuyahoga County, said in an effort to encourage volunteers, “This could be the one chance many of you will have in your lives to make a real difference, to affect history. What an opportunity. The President needs you; the nation needs you. It has been said many, many times in the past that ‘this election is the most important,’ but this time it’s really true, and you are in the most important county in the most important state.” The volunteers in Ohio knew that, and they acted like it.
Volunteers of the Bush Cheney 72-Hour Task Force in Cuyahoga County made over 250,000 phone calls and knocked on over 60,000 doors in fewer than five days. This enormous effort yielded big results as percentages in voter turnout reached historic levels for the county. It was vital to the President’s reelection hopes that he carry enough of the vote in the most populated county in the state. Volunteers understood this and made it happen.
Shannon Burns, a Cleveland native, who owns a web consulting business, took time off from his business and volunteered hundreds of hours to help reelect the President. He said regarding the effort, “Cuyahoga County has always been considered a democratic stronghold, a place unattainable for republicans, and though the democrats still outnumber the republicans here, this one weekend showed more opportunity to sway the election by getting out the vote than ever before. This is the gift the President has given us.”
Allison Aikele, Communications Director for the College Republican National Committee, was dispatched to Ohio from her office in Washington, D.C. She described “neighbors and friends coming together for an important cause, the true heart and soul of America.” According to her, people willingly volunteered so much effort to ensure “America’s safety and security by reelecting President Bush.” She ran a phone bank in a more Democratic area of Cleveland. Her phone bank was “always full,” she described. Many times she was forced to send people home with call lists to contact potential voters from their homes, as resources were often insufficient to accommodate volunteer turnout.
Russ Andrews, a volunteer all the way from California via Washington D.C., described his experience: “You hear a lot about apathy and ignorance, the ‘I don’t know and I don’t care’ attitude on the part of the average American. There was none of that here. It was inspiring to see people willingly and actively engaged in a cause they deemed to be worth all the time, energy, and emotional investment that they put in.”
President Bush carried Ohio by more than 2.5 percent. In the end, it was Ohio that determined our President for the next four years. The effort in Cuyahoga County is just a microcosm of a larger effort in the State and in the nation. President Bush owes much credit to his volunteers, and he has expressed his gratitude. His volunteers give him credit for inspiring them and giving them a reason to participate so heavily in the democratic process. By a margin greater than 5 million, more people voted for George W. Bush than any other president in our history. Whatever side of this election you were on, especially in light of all the pessimism spawned from 2000, this was a big win for democracy.