Despite some polls, hope is very much alive for Florida Democratic activists this year

One thing working against activists charged with getting out of the vote is that it's considered an "off-year," or non-presidential election year, which always has reduced voter participation.  In 2008, 63% of registered voters went to the polls nationwide.  That percentage is expected to drop into the 40 percentile range in the general election in November (statewide, only 20.9% of registered voters participated in last month's primary election).

Ashley Bauman is the press secretary for the FDP's Campaign for Accountability.  She says she's emphasizing to voters, including some who are dispirited, that it's about Florida, not Washington (a message that the woman at the top of their ticket, Alex Sink, took to the airwaves yesterday to emphasize to Rick Scott as well).

"There's no way to argue the tide, but when you bring it home to the state of Florida and what we're facing in Florida under a Republican administration, we have to bring it back to saying we need that shift in government," Bauman said. "It's all about Tallahassee and Florida and holding politicians accountable.  We're all residents.  That's what's important."

That strategy makes sense.  It's been 12 long years since a Democrat held the top political position in the state, and there have been only two Democrats on the Cabinet this decade (Bob Butterworth and Alex Sink).  It may not be as sexy as trying to get a president elected, but it could have just as much if not more impact on Floridians lives.

Although two major polls released on Tuesday show that Republicans have the edge over Democrats in terms of the  intensity of their supporters in Congressional races, a crucial benchmark that generally is an accurate prediction of election results, the good news (if you can call it that) for Democrats is that they still have plenty of time to fire up their own supporters.  And with Republicans and independents flocking away from them, getting out their base is the only way to help down ticket races as well.  And a new Gallup poll released Tuesday which shows support among Democrats and Republicans dead even could help their psyche.

So last night throughout the state, from the Panhandle to Hialeah, the Florida Democratic Party's Campaign for Accountability got off to its official start, with activists and volunteers gathering to begin calling other volunteers to see about their availability to begin canvassing and contacting voters about the 2010 election.

In South Tampa, an event was held just behind Datz Deli, where dozens of people convened to ask other Democrats if  they were ready and willing to offer their time and energy towards helping their candidates on the ballot statewide this November.

Organizers said Tuesday night was a chance to contact the many people who volunteered in 2008, when excitement for many Democrats was at an all time high as Barack Obama was trying to get elected president.

South Tampa resident Martha Hodge said some of the people being contacted don't usually vote Democratic, but did so in '08.  "One of our biggest problems is finding people at home because we don't leave messages on their phones," she added.  "We have something close to 40% connect,  but we have a lot of doubling back to do when we don't connect.

Volunteers can work as much as they like.  Hodge said she'll work about three days a week for two hours at a time, making phone calls.  She says there has been some resistance from 2008 activists.  "Basically they'll say 'I did my best 2 years ago, I'm not really interested now.' We say ,'well, you know, 2 years is not much time to take care of all the problems that we had.  And so it's imperative that we get just as excited and just as active as we did with President Obama, and some people buy that, and some people don't buy that.  So we really have to struggle with that...we do. But I think in general most people are happy to get live contact, people are annoyed by robocalls.  One genetleman I cold called a week ago said he was hoping somebody would call him, and there he is (volunteering).  I'm going to be walking up and down the streets, knocking on doors."


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