With an eye on the presidential polls in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina where their candidate is competitive, Obama supporters rallied at the Masonic Temple in Newark on Saturday in preparation for the February 5th primary in New Jersey – where Obama is not competitive.
At least not today. Not right now.
That could change depending on what happens in the earlier primaries, and for a presidential candidacy built on change, a subject Obama's supporters figure they know well, they like the odds.
"This is going to come down to what kind of organization we have in key states around the country," Mayor Cory Booker told a crowd of 150. "New Jersey is probably one of the bellwether states in terms of where this primary is going to go."
New Jersey constitutes a portion of the base of Obama’s chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Trailing in double digits here, it's a long shot to picture Obama winning, but "We have to deliver New Jersey," said an unflappable Booker, exhorting people to sign up to participate in GOTV efforts, which they did after his speech.
Mark Alexander, state director for the Obama Campaign in New Jersey, admitted it’s not going to be easy.
"We know we’ve got to work," said Alexander, who earlier this week opened the campaign’s official office in West Orange. "A lot of people want this prize and no one’s going to give it up easily. What we’re going to ask you to do is walk the streets and knock on doors."
Some of the volunteers have been with the pre-official campaign outfit, NJ for Obama, since last winter, and are delighting in the prospect of their candidate sending a shock through the Clinton camp by pulling off some kind of winning combination in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – to force a Jersey showdown.
At a coffee shop in Edison nearly a year ago, four concerned citizens sat and pondered the possibilities of working to put Barack Obama in the White House. They were Bertin Lefkovic, Damian Bednarz, Peter Brown and Julia Diaz.
A veteran of NJ for Dean in 2004, Lefkovic hoped to immerse himself in another progressive presidential crusade, but was starting a family and, as it turned out, couldn’t commit himself to the long hours of organizing a grassroots campaign. He left the effort before it started.
Bednarz spearheaded NJ for Obama, and caught the eye of the official national campaign, which recruited him. When he finished his graduate degree in international relations, he headed for New Hampshire to work for Obama, which is where he is now.
Of the original foursome that leaves Diaz, now the state vice chair for NJ for Obama, and Brown, the field director, who helped sign up volunteers in Newark on Saturday.
After his departure from the incipient NJ for Obama, Lefkovic decided to back Joe Biden for president. But at the Friday night Democratic caucus in Roselle Park when Biden was drubbed out of the contest, Lefkovic joined forces with his second choice: Obama.
Another veteran of the NJ for Dean campaign in 2004, Councilman Ron Rice, Jr., stood on stage with Booker and Alexander Saturday in support of Obama, his 2008 presidential pick.
"We have to fight, scratch, knock on doors, pull, push, do whatever we have to do, in order to make change," Rice said.