WASHINGTON – The objective: register more Democrats and “redefeat” President Bush in November.
The Committee to ReDefeat the President – redefeat refers to 2000's popular vote majority for Democrat Al Gore – launched its campaign Tuesday with a voter-registration party at the dimly lighted Spy Lounge in the city's trendy Adams Morgan neighborhood. The committee is not affiliated with any candidate but is working to elect a Democrat as president.
Letitia Gardner didn't have a cell phone like most of Tuesday night's 95 volunteers at the group's first Tuesday Night Democratic Club meeting,but she had a pen. And that's all she needed to get her point across.
“I feel passionately that we need a regime change. Period,” said Gardner,a 68-year-old retired legal service administrator and lifelong Democrat. “We must defeat George Bush.”
Committee volunteers called or wrote to unregistered households in the Northeastern Pennsylvania city of Wilkes-Barre. The campaign hopes to register more Democrats before the state's Democratic primary April 27.
Sitting on a bar stool,Gardner wrote letters to unregistered voters focusing on the manufacturing jobs lost in the state during Bush's tenure. “I'm hitting the jobs. I want them to know that George Bush has failed them in Pennsylvania,” she said.
Gardner,a Washington resident for most of her adult life,grew up in Pennsylvania. She plans to visit the state next month to persuade residents face to face. Before her trip north,she vows to continue writing letters for the campaign.
“Every Tuesday night I'm in Washington,I'll be here,” Gardner said. The group will meet at the Spy Lounge every Tuesday in March.
Volunteers making phone calls had to use spare hands to cover an ear to drown out some of the background chatter. The campaign ran out of envelopes within the first two hours,said the group's founder,David Lytel,a former Internet adviser in the Clinton administration.
Lytel expected 40 to 50 people to show up,but twice as many volunteers crowded the humid two-floor bar. A campaign spokesman,David Swanson,said about 1,000 unregistered Luzerne County,Pa.,residents were contacted by phone and personal letter in less than four hours.
“The efficiency of this contact is higher than I anticipated,” Lytel said. Following the voter contact activities,participants watched the Super Tuesday primary returns on television.
Concentrating on a handful of key battleground states,the committee hopes to mobilize 20,000 volunteers to register 50 Democrats each by the close of voter registration in the fall. Tuesday clubs are also being organized in Maryland,Virginia and other states,Lytel said.
Many volunteers became aware of the campaign by e-mail. Others,like 25-year-old Anna Utgoff and Gardner,said they saw a booth set up at book signings and voting sites. Utgoff heard Ron Suskind,author of “The Price of Loyalty,” about former Bush administration Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill,speak at the Politics and Prose bookstore in January.
Utgoff,a research analyst for DFI International,was trained in late January to help other volunteers. Although she hoped Sen. John Edwards,D-N.C.,would win the Democratic nomination over Sen. John F. Kerry,D-Mass.,she’ll settle for any candidate who can deliver a victory for the Democrats.
“The thing I care about the most,by far,is defeating Bush,” Utgoff said.
Volunteers were given a list of about 25 unregistered voters each. If callers reached an answering machine,they left a message letting the resident know that a letter from the campaign would be sent to them. If a volunteer reached a resident willing to register as a Democrat,then a voter registration form was sent.
Lytel said that his campaign was off to “a better start” than the Republican National Committee’s voter registration truck that was introduced Wednesday in front of RNC headquarters.
Republican national Chairman Ed Gillespie unveiled Reggie,the voter registration 18-wheel rig to launch National Voter Registration Week,March 6-13. The semi,equipped with televisions,computers and X-boxes,will travel the country between now and November to register new Republican voters,according to the RNC’s web site.
“They’re trying to substitute bright lights and fancy technology for a respectable record in the White House,” Lytel said.
Headquartered on the Internet at www.redefeatbush.com,the ReDefeat committee raises money through online contributions,events and the sale of merchandise,including buttons,bumper stickers,T-shirts,lawn signs and condoms.