Bwog’s James Downie checks back in from Virginia.

LEESBURG, VA. – If you’re going to knock on doors for a candidate, you will rapidly learn how much you’re willing to work for that candidate. 6 hours of walking tests not only one’s feet and shoes, but also the ability to sell a shtick again and again to closing doors. The only thing that could have made it worse would be the weather – we have lucked into reasonably warm weather for this four-day sojourn. Even more fortunately for the Obama, Warner, and Feder campaigns, their Columbia foot soldiers ended a second day of campaigning still in high spirits. They even managed to navigate the Daylight Savings Time switch without missing any vans.

That does not mean there have not been interesting stories of voter resistance and hilarious stories of voter reaction along the way. After all, memorable moments are bound to happen on the campaign trail. Some of the best stories of the last two days, and the method behind the Obama canvassing machine, after the jump.

The Obama canvassing method remains much the same as it was at the start of the year. Each morning, after receiving pep talks from their fellow students (ranging from animated to awkward), the students gather in their van groups, and receive their packets for the day. Each packet contains 75-100 street addresses, names, personal information, and (if known) how they’re learning right now. Each house is hand-picked as a “swing house” by the Obama campaign data system, which has been adding and refining the voter rolls for almost 18 months.

Students then knock on doors to both sway voters and take more data – as mentioned yesterday, Columbia students’ efforts are giving the various campaigns a better picture on over 10,000 voters in just two days. Among these 10,000, there are many happy encounters, each providing mental fuel for the 15 doors where no one answers, and the doors shut angrily in your face (as I experienced on one or two occasions).

And there are the stories:

  • Sometimes voters bring out the big guns to turn people away. Among other incidents, Anna Brower, BC ’10 and Dems vice-president, was attacked with a leaf blower. Ironically, this was only after she’d worn her Marilyn Monroe costume.
  • Others get more information than they expected – Molie Stein, BC ’10, had a woman volunteer that she’d had an abortion.
  • Even the hotel parking lot isn’t safe from conflict. One car pulled up outside and began to argue with a Dems van about Obama. When one first-year mentioned that Colin Powell had endorsed Obama, the man shouted, “Haven’t you ever heard of tribalism?”
  • Sometimes, canvassers can bring families together. Ross Johnson, CC ’10 and one of the Lead Activists (the four masterminds of the trip), found a whole family (that was not on his list) gathered to tell him to stay away from their door – including some person “barking at me through the window.”
  • Even in this tough district, the youth knows who they support. In an unscientific survey of two pre-school age sisters, Jake Grumbach CC ’10 learned that McCain is “not cool,” and that they had voted for Obama.
  • Just as the Obama campaign has more money than they know what to do with, they also seem to have more canvassers than they know what to do with – numerous Dems were told that other Obama campaigners had been through within the past few days.
  • One van has taken spirit a bit more picturesquely than others, declaring itself, among other titles, the “Starship Hope.” No word on whether the name is an unfortunate allusion to Star Trek…
  • Sometimes people interpret door knocking differently than you expect. Adrian Haimovich, SEAS ’10, knocked on a door, and looked up to see a shirtless man sticking his chest out at Adrian.

On Monday, the Dems continue their canvassing in the morning, before heading over to Manassas, Virginia, to staff and attend Barack Obama’s last rally of the 2008 campaign.