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As primary neared, Obama HQ kicked into overdrive


With Super Tuesday’s primary looming, Sen. Barack Obama’s Massachusetts campaign entered the home stretch over the weekend, and activities were frenzied at the state headquarters in Davis Square in Somerville. Volunteers of all ages stopped into the basement office, eager to do their part to help deliver the Bay State for Obama.

Reid Cherlin, spokesman for the Obama campaign in Massachusetts, said the campaign had volunteers performing a variety of tasks, from calling potential voters on the phone to organizing signs, campaign literature and other Election Day materials.

For many in the office, this past weekend marked the first time they had ever volunteered for a political campaign.

“You definitely see people come in for the first time,” Cherlin said. “There’s a real sense of excitement and growing momentum.”

On Sunday, volunteers trickled in to make phone calls for Obama while others went out to canvass prospective voters door-to-door. According to Cherlin, the office is often filled to capacity with volunteers.

“A bunch of times we’ve run out of chairs and have had people making calls while sitting on the floor,” Cherlin said.

Ellie Berens, 24, volunteered in South Carolina for a few weeks before venturing up to Massachusetts following the Illinois senator’s decisive win down South. She said the level of excitement for Obama among volunteers is impressive.

“I’ve just met so many people who basically put their lives on hold just to help out with the campaign … and most of them have never really been involved in politics before,” Berens said. “And he’s bringing all of us out who have been very disenchanted with politics for a long time.”

Jay Rogers, 58, of Cambridge, volunteered in the Democratic presidential campaign of Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry in 2004. This time around, he decided he needed to make sure that Obama “made it” on Election Day.

“It just feels like now’s the time before the primary to really give as much of a push as one can,” Rogers said.

Rogers started volunteering for Obama over the weekend.

“I walked by [the campaign office] and saw the sign and thought, ‘Okay, we’ve got a few more days here, let’s see what I can do,’” he said.

For Rogers, the campaign style employed by New York Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democratic rivals’ South Carolina face-off pushed him to support Obama.

“I thought that’s an indication of the kind of presidency we’re going to have with Hillary if she were to win, and I don’t think that would be true of Obama,” Rogers said. “I think he’s run a very honest and generous campaign.”

Arlington resident Joan Smeltzer walked into the office last weekend with her college-aged daughter, and the two set to making calls. Like Rogers, she started volunteering over the weekend.

“I believe in the candidate and I want to get as many other people interested in showing [up] for the primary as possible,” she said.

Toward that end, Smeltzer said she made 100 calls on Saturday.

“This is our fresh wind blowing in and he is the only one, I believe, who could make a real change. Everybody else is the same old, same old,” Smeltzer said. “He just resonates throughout the country from the bottom up.”

The basement office had all the classic signs of a campaign in high gear — pizza boxes, bottled water and a taxed coffeemaker sharing space with call lists and literature. Obama posters and precinct maps covered the walls, accented by the added touch of Christmas lights.

Campaign T-shirts took up one office corner, with one Boston-themed green shirt reading “O’bama,” with a shamrock standing in for an apostrophe.

Yet the office still had signs of the new style of campaigning that Obama has pursued this year. One section of the wall bore thank you notes to volunteers. Posters ask, “Got hope?” while another, littered with signatures, asks, “Do You Believe?”