Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ohio for Obama, Rock Star Volunteer, Episode II

Special note: I'm struggling a little bit with getting pics and video up. You will have to use your imagination a little bit. It will probably hurt!...on to the blog...

One of the tasks I quickly dominated was phone banking. Basically, you call people to determine if they are Obama supporters and if they can volunteer. After a few good hours of this, it became like shooting fish in a barrel. I even remarked to handsome Obama staffer, Luke, who I was actually starting to like after our shaky introduction from Episode I, "Putting me on phone banking is a little bit like having Pele play foosball. Of course, he could do it, but what a waste of his talents!"

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Luke seated, Dave at right


I should be running the phonebanking operation. Soon, I was, with a little help from volunteer Dave. One of my most important tasks was making sure that Dave knew his place, which was beneath me. For instance, I made nametags for us. Mine said, "Phonebank Captain" and his said "Phonebank Co-Captain" or mine said "Phonebank CEO" and his said "Phonebank Middle Management".

One of my favorite stories was, after a long night of phonebanking, I talked to super dedicated volunteer Diane Durham. I asked her how her night had gone, and she said she had had some really negative calls right in a row at the end of the night. I could tell she was discouraged, so I said, "Maybe we should just quit!" :)

I was looking for more and more leadership roles, and I was promised by my field organizer, Carrianna, that I could run the canvassing (door to door) operation the next day. I could just see myself training people so well that I was essentially cloning myself, so there would be about 50 Fulchers out there dominating the doors, and I could sit inside where it was warm, yuck it up and drink hot chocolate. When I got there, Carrianna sent me to the other office to pick up computers. Since it was assigned to me, I was pretty sure this was the most important task ever and critical to our canvassing operation. I went to the downtown office expecting to be treated like royalty. Instead, I was ignored while all of the important people were on some conference call. They even made me answer phones while I waited. I remember a call from a father from Virginia that said he, his wife and four kids were going to drive to Dayton for a day, just to volunteer and go to church there. He said he never does anything like this, but was just so inspired. I told him not to come and that we'd probably lose by about 10 points no matter what. ;) Many of the calls I got were people looking for information about the Dayton office, which did not have a phone yet; I funneled them all to my friend from Iowa, Girish. Good guy, great mustache.

The stress built as I waited on the computers, and they gave me other tasks to accomplish. I had visions of angry potential canvassers burning the other office down because of our lack of Dells. I ended up waiting for about an hour and returned with no computers. Now, that's the Fulcher efficiency that is known from Iowa to South Carolina!

When I got back from whiffing on the computers, Carrianna told me that I was needed as a canvasser. I went out for about an hour, and one sentence describes my experience: it was a lot like hell only it was cold instead of hot!

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I decided I need a really bad chicken sandwich to brighten my mood, so I stopped off at a dive bar that was openly defying the Ohio smoking ban. The barflies were even trained to hide their cigarettes when anyone walked in. Good thing carbon monoxide is odorless.

I contemplated turning this place in for its civil disobedience, but, once I listened to the regulars, I couldn't help but like them. Two were discussing why Congress was investigating steroids while they should be ending the war in Iraq. Another leaned towards me and said, "how do you spell arbitrarily?" You can't make this kind of stuff up...and, of course, I just had to start smoking to fit in, and I've never really looked back.

My rock star volunteer status really started popping when I appeared in my first video of the campaign season.


Not my best work, but solid video making by Bexley High School student Jake Beech. Although it could have used more of me and less of everyone else. :)


I met the person with the best job in the world. Her name is Caitlin Harvey. The first time I met her she was leaving the downtown office to go and see Teddy Kennedy speak in Youngstown. I gave her my card and told her to slip it to Teddy. On 2-22, she shows up to interview me. She conveniently forgot the one task I had trusted her with. I soon forgave her, and the reason I say she has the best job in the world is that she is paid to listen to my stories. She's a blogger for the campaign and knows a rock star volunteer when she sees one. It wasn't long before she was eating out of my hand. A few hours later, my sister called me. She had been browsing http://www.barackobama.com/ and came across my profile. Thanks to Caitlin Harvey, my good looks and enthusiasm, I had made the main page. Woo hoo! Obama himself has been trying to make the main page for over a year. Keep trying, buddy!

Lastly, I weaseled my way in front of yet another camera to talk about canvassing. I hadn't planned on going canvassing that day (that's for people that I boss around). 10TV was doing some lame story about the campaign until I sat down and made the story about ME!!! If you look on Obama's website, it says "This campaign is about YOU!" I take that quite literally.
I know that if you look at the site from your computer it says "This campaign is about FULCH!" :)

As the interviewer guy throws me softballs, I'm knocking them out of the park with lines like "this is the center of the political universe" and "friends don't let friends vote for hillary" (the latter I actually didn't say...it came from my brother...you can tell we are close!) Soon, the interview guy is asking me if I would go canvassing, and he could film me. I just happened to wear my OSU jersey with my name on the back (marketing, baby!).

It was very neat for students to come up to me the next day and say, "I saw you on the news!" My first thought was, "kids watch the news? I hate the news! It's so boring." Of course when I am on it, it is slightly less boring.

Thus ends the tale of Fulcher, the rock star. There's still a lot left to tell, but my 15 minutes of fame was pretty much over. I'm actually pretty famous now, but not rich. So, please send me money, so I can quit my job and be a full time celebrity.

A few questions remain:

Would Carrianna be able to work her way back into my good graces after the canvassing betrayal? Would I be able to make any national news services? Would I be able to encourage any out of state volunteers to join me? What role would DC play in our big win on March 4th?

In case you are wondering about my apparent bombastic claims and attitude, keep in mind I am working through many of these issues with my psychologist, and I didn't even include how I think I can box like Muhammad Ali, dance like Michael Jackson, and sing like...well, if you saw my South Carolina blog, you know I can't really sing...

Until Episode III...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ohio for Obama, The center of the political universe, Episode I

Special note: last blog, I promised a prize for anyone who correctly finished the quiz at the end of the War and Peace version. I had to make a tough decision between giving them all IPhones or a mention on my next blog. Congrats to Keith Gilbertson, Robert Tracy, Mary Jane Fulcher, Meredith Porter, Natalie Silverman, Noel Blaha, and Scott Sanders, your IPhones are on the way. ;)

I started attending grassroots Obama meetings on March 3rd, 2007, but things really didn't start heating up until mid-February 2008. The Obama staff arrived and set up a meeting for all grassroots supporters in Central Ohio. Turns out 720 people showed up. We weren't passing out candy here; these people showed up to find out how they could WORK to help Obama. This was going to be really special! Before the meeting, I met two handsome staffers, Seth London and Luke McGowan. I made my usual good first impression on Luke when I asked him about "his vision" for some canvassing sign up sheets. Mildly annoyed, he gave me an answer. I knew I wasn't going to like this guy...About 30 minutes before the meeting, I went up to Seth and said, "if you need me to say a few words, just let me know..." Wry smile from Seth. "I also do a pretty good 'fired up...ready to go!' chant. Seth said he might be able to use me. Meanwhile, our grassroots Commander General, Valli Frausto, tried to give me a few jobs manning volunteer tables. I quickly delegated these responsibilities, so I could work the room and be in position to get the crowd "fired up". Before the meeting, I went around showing complete strangers the cell phone video I took after the Iowa caucuses. Some people loved it; some people thought I was crazy. This is when I decided I would have made a great professional wrestler.

10 mins before the meeting, Seth says, "Fulcher, we are going to use you. You are going to start the meeting with 'Fired up...ready to go!' and then introduce Ted Celeste", state representative and future Speaker of the Ohio House. "Great," I said. And then I got really nervous. Did I really want this duty? Was I up to the task of almost 1500 eyes staring at me? The next 10 mins seemed like 10 hours with Seth telling me "don't go anywhere, we are going to start soon" about three times. Then, it was show time...

The whole place was chattering with excitement.
Me on stage: Fired up!
A weak: ready to go
Me: Come on, there's only one of me and 500 of you. Fired up!
Better: Ready to Go!
Me: Fired up!
Crowd dominates: READY TO GO!
Me: My favorite Obama line is "one voice can change a room". See how easy that was? (small laugh from crowd) I'd now like to introduce State Representative, Ted Celeste.

Rallying the troops!

Afterwards, I walked as quickly as I could away from the spotlight and out to the periphery of the hall. I learned a valuable lesson...It's hard being the belle of the ball!

As if by a magnet, three people were drawn right to me. One was Katie Kington's cousin, Danny. Another Eric Vessels of the Plunderbund blog, who had recognized me from my blog. The third was Aaron Dagres, who was running for the U.S. House.

The rest of the meeting mostly involved me glad-handing, kissing a few babies and meeting a great guy named Joe Teague...


The Columbus HQ grand opening. My job was to be the greeter. Unfortunately, I did my job too well as I was told "I talk too much" and "To keep people moving". Next time, I will try to be a little bit less awesome!

Can't remember this lady's name, but the balloon animal is definitely Barack. She gave me an Obama dog leash. Thanks!

Later, I walked into the back room to find two other Rock Star volunteers, Jill Porosky and Gita Punwani. I sat down with them and said, "is this the sourpuss section? Let's see some smiles on those faces." They needed a little help housing volunteers. No problem, I would show them how it's done. After about an hour of calling, I had housed two volunteers. I pretended I wasn't frustrated, and we cracked a few jokes. The best was by a girl named Heather, who was helping us. After hanging up,

Heather: The person I just talked to said she would house someone if he is an African American male, is religious, and likes listening to hip hop. I wanted to say, "This isn't Match.com!"

I thought this was brilliant and told her it was blogworthy.

On the way out, I noticed a homeless woman outside the HQ begging for spare change. I had seen her minutes before inside. I asked her if she had gotten any food. She said, "They kicked me out". I thought to myself, "What would Obama do?" I went back inside and smuggled her out (Han Solo style) about 10 crackers and two gourmet granola bars. Extremely proud of myself, I presented them to her and she said, "I'll take the crackers, but I don't do granola bars. It's got that nutrasweet!" Ouch!

For the record, they don't contain Nutra sweet.

Upon my return, there was a small rally with Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman. During the speech, Coleman told a little story...

Coleman: Does everybody see these signs? (he pointed to some homemade Obama symbols on paper plates). These signs were driven here over night from South Carolina. We did pretty well there, huh?
Guy in crowd: They actually came from Virginia!
Coleman: Well, we did pretty well there too! You, sir, in the back! (Coleman pointed at me) What's your name? (This was actually kind of disappointing; I had told him my name not more than an hour before and he had said "I remember you!" Regardless, I told him my name.) Please put one of these signs on the wall by the door, and everybody should hit it on their way out. (Had Coleman stolen one of my ideas from Iowa? Which of course, I had stolen from Notre Dame. He had heard me speak about two weeks before; Mayor, you owe me! :) I felt my ideas had been validated!

I took a break (unheard of in the political world) and went to our high school's hockey game. We won with 21 seconds left in overtime. On a slapshot from one of my current students deflected off of one of my former students. What a rush! I high fived our principal and ran over to our student section, which consisted of about 10 kids, to celebrate.

Late in the day, one of the students from my school named Hany dropped by the HQ. Hany is a computer genius and probably on his way to Harvard for college.
Our conversation:
Me: Did you find parking okay?
Hany: Yeah, I'm in the back lot.
Me: The one with the numbers?
Hany: Yes.
Me: You know you have to pay to park there, right?
Hany: There wasn't anybody to pay.
Me: (I considered a few strategies as to how to explain the pay slots that you have to jam single dollar bills in. I'm not sure I could get a Dublin kid to understand it. I thought about describing it as looking like a apartment complex mailbox, but I'm not sure that would work...I was struggling) Do you have two single dollar bills?
Hany: I have a credit card!
(This line summed up so much about Dublin and its youth...Bubble indeed!) So, I showed him what my brother would call Bat Cave parking. Secretive, out of the way. I'd actually have the cops called on me in this parking lot a few days later...

Connor's in the middle and Hany's on the right.

After an extremely long but fun day, I had one important task left. I called my nine year old niece, Courtney, to see if she wanted to be a flower girl in our wedding.

Me: Hi Courtney, it's your uncle, Brian, would you like to be a flower girl at our wedding?
Courtney: Well, maybe.
Me: Maybe?
Courtney: Yes!!!
Me: Great. I spent the day campaigning for Barack Obama. Who would you vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?
Courtney: Well, I'd have to know more about their gun policy (keep in mind, she's nine!) Also, Obama doesn't have much experience in foreign affairs.
Me: Where are you getting this stuff from? Your daddy?
Courtney: Yes
Me: Well, he's what we call a (whisper) Republican.
Courtney: The Republican party was founded in the 1800's to end slavery.
Me: It was also the party of Abraham Lincoln, right?
Courtney: Yes!
Me: Well, the Republican party took a wrong turn somewhere between Abraham Lincoln and George W. Bush. What do you think about George W. Bush?
Courtney: Well, he didn't have much experience in foreign affairs either. He was looking for toxic weapons in Area 51, but he couldn't find them, so he went to Iraq...

This was actually more coherent than any conversations I'd had with her father in the last five years!

My niece, Courtney, she loves to read. I taught her how!

This looks like a good place to end Episode I. Would I meet any interesting people? Why did I have the cops called on me? Would I meet Obama for the third time? By how big of a margin would Obama win our great state? Stay tuned!

Since my previous blogs have raised a total of $0.00 dollars for the Obama campaign, I will try a different tactic. If you were entertained by my blog, please consider donating $5 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. My students and I are raising money for a two year old named Alex from Byesville, Ohio. He has terminal cancer, and his wish is to go to Disneyworld. To help, e-mail me:

Help Alex