Obama send staffers to work Long Neglected Republican Strongholds
The town of about 50,000 in the north-central part of the state is what Republicans mean when they talk about ``the heartland.'' Flags adorn the square, which features a diner, tobacco shop and a plaque memorializing Johnny Appleseed.
In 2004, President George W. Bush beat Democrat John Kerry in Mansfield's Richland County by 20 percentage points. This year, the Democrats plan to dispatch an army of staff members and volunteers to places like Richland in hopes of peeling off enough votes to carry the state.
The battle is being replicated across the country, as Obama volunteers deploy to areas that for decades Democratic hopefuls such as Kerry had largely forfeited.
``The Kerry folks made a mistake,'' Joe Mudra, Richland County's Democratic Party chairman, told a few dozen volunteers gathered last week for their first Obama organizing meeting. ``They focused on Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, the big cities; the Obama folks have said they're not doing that.''
At a similar juncture in 2004, the Ohio Democratic Party had six staff members; today, they have 63. The party also has a campaign machine that includes 4,000 precinct leaders and 75,000 volunteers, far outstripping Kerry's organization four years ago. The Obama campaign also recently brought 200 full- time Ohio volunteers to Chicago for training.