The Obama campaign opened its first Massachusetts office — in Somerville’s Davis Square — this past fall, but it has been used almost exclusively for making calls and arranging door-knocking trips up to New Hampshire. “Those kids from Boston should have been signed up months ago to work the precincts in Massachusetts,” says Dukakis.
Obama hasn’t even gotten wide support — at least, so far — among Massachusetts’s progressive bloggers. Only one of the three Blue Mass Group editors has endorsed him, and several other sites have leaned toward Edwards or Clinton.
Most glaring, at least to this point, is the absence in Obama’s Massachusetts organization of top Patrick personnel, who worked the state for his race. Obama’s Massachusetts director was brought in from out of state. So was his state communications director.
Clinton has not exactly been quick out of the box herself. Her eight paid field staffers — some with Massachusetts experience, like Tsongas campaign manager Roger Lau — just arrived in the state this past week. They have done no internal polling to determine where to focus their resources. The first official office opened this past week, in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) space in South Boston.
At this juncture, both campaigns are in heavy organizational mode in Massachusetts. And now that staff is getting into place, several organizing meetings a night are taking place for both candidates, in various parts of the state. Turnout at some of these meetings has been more than 100 eager volunteers, staffers say.
Obama staff point to the tremendous attendance at and excitement for the candidate’s previous appearances in the state, including a 2500-person fundraiser in Boston, as a sign that the grassroots are there for Obama. Although the focus has been elsewhere until now, it will soon turn to the Bay State. “Trust me, we haven’t forgotten about Massachusetts,” says Solomont, “and neither has Barack Obama.”
Clinton supporters say that their wide base of support — particularly among women — is mobilized, particularly after Obama’s early success in Iowa seemed to threaten their candidate’s chances.
What are the odds?
As noted before, the polls seem to show Clinton with a substantial lead here. But there’s plenty of time for that to change — even Clinton supporters expect the numbers to tighten.
“These early polls are worthless,” says Dukakis, who is not endorsing in the primary.
“Although we think we are the underdogs, we think we can wrestle Massachusetts away,” says Solomont. “And it would be a significant victory.”
“It’s all about momentum,” says Thomas O’Neill III, who is voting for Obama. “It depends on the other caucuses and primaries.”
O’Neill believes that Obama will bring young voters and Independents to the polls in Massachusetts, and will also get the votes of many “establishment” Democrats who really do want a fresh face to change the culture in Washington. “I find myself surprised by who is voting for Obama,” says O’Neill.
Even if Obama doesn’t win Massachusetts, it may be crucial for him to keep the loss close.
The allocation of delegates in the state is not winner-take-all, but proportional — partly on a state-wide level and partly within each congressional district.
The state-wide vote determines 32 of the delegates; each of the 10 congressional districts has between five and seven to allot.