Primary '08: What Americans home and abroad probably missed

Primary '08: What Americans home and abroad probably missed

11th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

In the midst of the race for the Democratic nomination for president, Staci Bivens takes a look at the fury of campaigning and what is different this time around.

Dayton, OHIO -- The Democrats are not much closer to having a primary season winner. Of course, just because you are abroad you haven't missed that. The political road to the American leadership position is a bit longer, more expensive to navigate and more complicated than it is in Germany.

Take the mathematically perplexing distribution of Democratic delegates, for example. Then, there is the Texas primary and caucus two-step. While it's bewildering, it's not that new either. What has changed since Bill Clinton's 1992 saxophone rendition of "Heartbreak Hotel" on The Arsenio Hall Show is the degree to which presidential candidates must show voters just how 'real' they are.

The Hollywood writers' strike gave candidates more opportunities to do that because actors refused to cross the picket line to go on talk shows. So, you probably missed Republican hanger-on-er and now goner Mike Huckabee charm the public on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Senator Hilary Clinton ham it up on Late Night with David Letterman.

You probably also missed my favorite talk show moments which involved Senator Barack Obama dancing on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. There is a fine line between marketing yourself as a serious candidate and proving you are a down-to-earth, a regular Jo or Josephine. That balance is less expected of German politicians. Just imagine Chancellor Angela Merkel dancing on ML Mona Lisa. Sorry. Please take a moment to erase that thought from your mind.

As daunting as campaign season is for the candidates, it can be demanding too for thousands of volunteers who donate their time and talents to their preferred presidential choice. I spent time with Obama volunteers in Dayton, OH. While the Illinois senator was unable to force the former first lady out of the race, his supporters are still hopeful.

"Yes we can," said Obama volunteer Craig Prior from Downers Grove, Illinois. "We can and we will."

Prior is among a group of out-of-staters from the Chicago area are who signed up to stump for Obama. He not only volunteers to drive other supports but he also donated a hotel room for the campaign to accommodate other out-of-town volunteers.

While Obama's campaign has been able to raise record amounts of money via the Internet, it has been careful in how that money is spent. No bus rental fees or payments for expensive gas bills in an effort to transport volunteers - they drove themselves and brought others along for the ride.

In all fairness, Senator Clinton's campaign also drummed up dedication. Volunteers traveled to key voting states, canvassed neighborhoods, made phone calls and handed out fliers. Clinton's camp has lagged behind Obama's financially. Still, it generated USD 32 million (EUR 24 million) after the New York Senator loaned $5 million of her own money to her campaign. Many Clinton supporters also followed her on the road.

"With each event, from Westerville to Cleveland, I was impressed with Hillary's sincerity, warmth, and passion," said Melanie Biddle from Columbus, OH.

Posting no longer only referred to putting up signs in front yards. This campaign season posts also came in the form of emails and political messages shared on networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Those who wanted to stump for their political favorite didn't have to cross their yards or go online.

Supporters for both camps were encouraged to call potential voters, from their own homes. Campaigns supplied phone numbers and talking points. Since you're out of the country, you missed the calls and the shticks. But if you make your way back to the United States before November, odds are-you probably won't.

March 2008

Staci Bivens is a 2006-2007 Alumna of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program in Germany and a freelance journalist based in Chicago.

[Copyright Expatica 2008] 

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