This Holiday Season when your Bush-loving household is finally ready to give thanks for a year’s worth of blessings, don’t forget the Mighty Texas Strike Force.
The Mighty Texas who, you ask? Well, with some swing states like Ohio and Florida, going red, and other battlegrounds like Pennsylvania inching ever so close, 1500 selfless Texans deserve recognition for fighting unseen battles to round up every last W vote.
Whether you saw some extra Bush signs along your Michigan highway, got another W knock at your door in Iowa, or saw an unusually large number of passionate Bush supporters waving signs at your local Nevada mall, Texans were hard at work in key states’ political trenches. “We deployed 1,500 Texas and adopted Texans to 9 targeted swing states,” said Rick Potter, one of four national coordinators for the Mighty Texas Strike Force. Potter, Patrick Oxford, Karen Johnson, and Polly Sowell grew an army of grassroots soldiers to deploy to Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and of course Pennsylvania.
Operation Swing State:
Potter and his crew approached 2004 under the premise that if Texas was solidly in Bush’s camp, they might as well work on swing states. “With my family located in Austin√?¬Ę√Ę‚??¬¨ ¬¶I had to find another way to plug into the campaign,” said Potter, who headed the Keystone effort. After scouting out the area a few months earlier, Potter imported 300 Texans, with 150 staying in Pittsburgh and the rest assisting in Philadelphia, Greensburg, and Scranton.
Sorry Dems, the MTSF wasn’t a band of Lone Star mercenaries. Volunteers paid their own way, and relished every last second of the hooting and hollering. “A lot of the people that I met with MTSF in Pittsburgh have been involved in politics for some time,” said Texan Michelle Robinson. “They were some ordinary citizens, including myself and my son Brandon, who just felt like we could not sit back and wait to see what happened.”
“The strong belief I have in President Bush motivated me to get off the sidelines and get into the game to do whatever we could to get the vote out,” said North Pittsburgh Team Captain Joe O’Rourke, an Austin native. O’Rourke worked with local pro-Bush organizations like the Republican Committee of Allegheny County and Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania to make the most of their time.
“The Mighty Texas Strike Force Team lived up to their name. They took Pittsburgh by storm with an onslaught of 150 dedicated people,” says YCOP Allegheny County Chair Sam Berninger, whose troops helped navigate the crew to and from canvassing trips, midnight yard sign runs, and heavily trafficked events.
“I had the job of helping the Texan volunteers navigate Pittsburgh and some of the surrounding suburbs,” said YCOP Allegheny County Social Chair Cindy Helmstetter.” I felt like we were on the front line of the campaign driving around in our van because were always on the looking for ways to get Bush’s message out there to the public.”
Other festivities included daily sign waving rallies along busy intersections, Sunday’s Catholic outreach, and a heck of a lot of door knocking and phone calling. “They were the helping hands we needed when the workload was at its heaviest.” said Fred Mullner of Butler County’s Bush operation. “We had so many doors to knock on and phone calls to make, and they stepped in at exactly the right time.”
It’s hard to argue that the Texans didn’t make a difference. Rush Limbaugh, who attended the heavily promoted Sunday October 31st Pittsburgh/New England game mentioned how many Bush supporters he saw waving signs. One day earlier YCOP’s Stan Shivell and around 30 Texans’ McKnight Road Bush Sign Rally made WPXI’s nightly news. “I might have been the one interviewed, but the Texans made the whole TV story possible,” said Shivell.
Since the Texans weren’t supposed to play up that they were from outside the area, no one noticed how many news stories they impacted. On October 29th, for example, around 150 Texans showed up outside the Allegheny County Courthouse at a GOP rally to extend the deadline for military absentee ballots:
“About 50 Bush-Cheney supporters showed up to support the legislators. Two were hit with thrown eggs. It was not immediately clear who threw the eggs or why. One woman hit in the leg was crying, but wouldn’t comment,” reported the AP. “‘I’m here to get publicity for George Bush, I’m not here to get publicity for myself,’ she said.”
“I was extremely sensitive about√?¬Ę√Ę‚??¬¨ ¬¶coming across as carpet baggers,” said Potter. “I didn’t want to come across as telling Pennsylvania people how to win elections.”
Extra Bodies Put To Good Use
When Potter’s crew rolled into town on Thursday October 28th, they broke out into teams of 10 from their Northern Allegheny County Holiday Inn “Headquarters” and navigated to local calling centers, communities, and events.
“It was something like a movie would go,” said Robinson. “I met various people at different times on my first night and they all ended up being on my Team (#13, BB Team Tower). Jim was an awesome team leader and really brought the motley crew together into a rocking unit that made over 1000 contacts in a single day.”
On Monday, November 1st the entire group battled a frigid morning’s weather and saw George W Bush speak at the Post-Gazette Pavilion, near the Pennsylvania/Ohio border.
“The hundreds of volunteers who traveled here from the Lone Star State provided the critical mass of workers needed in some of the most important counties in the state to meet and exceed our goal,” said Republican Committee of Allegheny County Executive Director Michael O’Connell
“We were thrilled to have the help of the Mighty Texas Task Force, real patriots who sacrificed their time and money because the stakes in this year’s election were simply too high for them to stay at home,” added RCAC Political Director Mike Dolan.
PA Narrowed Numbers:
Texans forced the Kerry opposition up against the wall in some states, and in others made their rivals to sweat like crazy. In Pennsylvania, for example, Bush improved significantly on his 2000 numbers, during which he lost to Gore 2,485,967 (51%) to 2,281,127 (46%). According to recently updated Washington Post figures, in 2004 Bush narrowed the margin, losing 2,885,773 (51%) to 2,756,904 (49%), with additional new incoming vote figures said to benefit Bush.
“Allegheny County’s results have yet to be finalized, yet already the totals are 8% better than 2000 for Bush. That significant increase can be contributed in part, perhaps a large part, to the efforts of the Mighty Texas Strike Force,” said Salena Zito of the Pennsylvania Bush Cheney campaign.
On Sunday Zito and the Texans targeted economically liberal but socially conservative Western PA Catholic voters, a key pro-union Democrat voting block, organizing their efforts to reach both Catholic Voters and football fans the Sunday before the election. “Did it work? I think so, the Steelers Game visibility rally was overwhelming positive√?¬Ę√Ę‚??¬¨ ¬¶also our numbers show a healthy increase, especially among Catholic’s in Allegheny County.”
Zito saw firsthand the Greensburg Texans impacting things locally. “In Westmoreland County we increased our numbers from a surprising victory for Bush in 2000 by 8,000 votes to an unprecedented 20,000 votes for W. Our MTSF numbered 29 and hit over 10,000 doors and helped significantly in our impromptu W rally opposite a John Edwards visit on Halloween Morning.”
Swing States Swing
With how busy the MTSF was in Pennsylvania, you have to wonder what could have happened in Ohio if those 1,500 Texans decided to stay home.
“[On Sunday] over in Columbus, Texans have made an even 100,000 calls, using their own cell phones as the hard lines were already in use,” writes the MTSF’s Kay Butchko, who sent out team leader email updates. In Ohio in 2000 Bush bested Gore 2,350,363 (50%) to 2,183,628 (46%). This time Bush slid past Kerry 2,796,147 (51%) to 2,659,664 (49%). “Ohio teams are cranking it out. They were given a goal of 198,000 phone calls–a huge assignment–and they ended up making 266,876 calls!!” states a Saturday MTSF Report. “266,876!! Oh my aching ear!! But all for a great cause. In addition to the calls, our teams knocked on 22,971 doors–oh my aching knuckles!!”
With 2000 in mind and the early voting wildcard, Lone Stars paid extra attention to Florida. According to Florida Team Leader Joseph E. Gardner, The Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes credited the MTSF/72 Hour Team in Indian River and Duval Counties as one of the reasons for the great margins in Florida. In 2000 Bush squeaked past Gore 2,912,790 (49%) to 2,912,253 (49%). This time Bush did far better against Kerry 3,955,656 (52%) to 3,574,509 (47%).
“Starting with our 225 MTSF’ers in FLORIDA, we are pounding the other side into submission,” states a Saturday MTSF internal emails. “Up in Jacksonville, the early voting is so heavy that at one of the early voting spots, the equipment overheated and slowed everything up. Our Jacksonville teams led by Wallace Klussman, Skipper Wallace and Deni Johnson moved out to the Georgia Bulldog/Florida Gator game to pass out materials and think 90%—ok, say 89%–are for us.”
New Mexico is another place where the Texans deserve a great deal of credit in turning a blue state red. In 2000 Gore horse-nosed Bush 286,783 (48%) to 286,417 (48%). This time Bush was victorious over Kerry 376,940 (50%) to 370,893 (49%). The day before the election, the Santa Fe Texans hit 7 key precincts and dropped 500 pieces of literature per precinct. Iowa was the other switching colors state the Texans targeted. In 2000 Bush narrowly lost to Gore 638,517 (49%) to 634,373 (48%). This time Bush overtook Kerry 746,600 (50%) to 733,102 (49%). The Lone Star warriors also kept Nevada rugged red. In 2000 Bush romped Gore 301,575 (50%) to 279,978 (46%). In 2004 Bush escaped Kerry 414,939 (50%) to 393,372 (48%).
While Wisconsin didn’t go to Bush, Butchko wrote that their Milwaukee Texas teams exceeded assigned quota for block-walking by 160% on Sunday October 31st and did everything they could to come out on top. In 2000 Bush lost to Gore 1,242,987 (48%) to 1,237,279 (48%) This time Kerry won 1,488,935 (50%) to 1,477,122 (49%). Michigan and Minnesota tell similar tales. In 2000 Bush was defeated by Gore in Michigan 2,170,418 (51%) to 1,953,139 (48%). This time Kerry beat Bush 2,475,046 (51%) to 2,310,803 (48%). In 2000 Bush lost Minnesota to Gore 1,168,266 (48%) to 1,109,659 (46%). Bush ended up short in 2004 1,443,619 (51%) to 1,345,175 (48%).
Remembering the Keystone Alamo
While PA might not have fell into Bush’s column, Potter feels that the Texans enthusiasm certainly helped Bush improve on 2000. “I sensed there were a lot of people who were supporting President Bush and what he stands for but were intimated about being vocal,” said Potter.
“I felt like we got a very positive response, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Even when the response wasn’t positive, I felt like we may have made people realize that the election is really important and they should go vote,” said Cindy Nash of the University of Texas. “I think we really got the city fired up for the election…we were everywhere during the 6 days I was in town.”
“Over the six days I was in Pittsburgh I got little sleep, pushed myself to the limits regarding interaction with strangers, got called every name in the book by Kerry supporters, had a lot of expenses, made no money, and loved every minute of it,” added Robinson. “Joining the Mighty Texas Strike Force is one of the best experiences of my 33 year long life!”
“My stay in Pittsburg and other places confirmed that the REAL heartland of America cares about its values, and that those values are those exemplified by President Bush.” added Texan Jamie Ramon.
Like the license plate, looks like Ramon, Nash, Robinson and company sure found some friends in Pennsylvania. If Texas starts trending blue, some Pennsylvanians are already announcing they will be rushing off in remembrance of the Keystone Alamo. “Although we came up a little short statewide, the real surge in the President’s vote totals in this part of Pennsylvania make it clear that future elections will be decided in southwestern Pennsylvania,” concluded RCAC Chairman Bob Glancy. “We hope soon to have a chance to return the favor as well, by sending volunteers to help our new friends in Texas.”