Hill Surrogates Hit the Trail Before Local Vote

Posted February 8, 2008 at 6:23pm

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — When asked Friday about her upcoming schedule on behalf of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) joked, “I wish I was as thin as I am stretched.”

Mikulski had just finished bringing a rally for Maryland women supporting Clinton to a rousing conclusion alongside Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in the shadows of the historic State House here.

As the hundred or so women — and a few dozen men — packed up their bright red “Women for Hillary” signs, picked up their “women leaders campaign kits” and headed back to work or out to lunch on the sunny but chilly afternoon, Mikulski made a beeline for the print and television media gaggles that had dutifully assembled for her.

For Maryland’s senior Senator and one of the national co-chairs for the Clinton campaign, Friday’s rally was only the beginning of a long series of events leading up to Tuesday’s all important “Potomac primary” in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Heading into the 2008 campaign, few political professionals could have guessed that the presidential primary season would have gone on as long as it has. But with Super Tuesday yielding no definitive nominee for either party, the fight over delegates has turned into an increasingly frantic battle in states where the presidential primaries usually are a mere formality.

And besides the obvious importance of their fellow Members as superdelegate votes, Clinton and Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) also now are relying on their Congressional supporters for the get-out-the-vote operations that they already have in place in Tuesday’s primary states.

“Sen. Clinton is building her campaign on, number one, the people and the grass-roots volunteers,” Mikulski said. However, “those of us who hold elected office, she’s counting on us to use our organizational apparatus to help her.”

Mikulski said her schedule in the coming days will include high-visibility media events, door-to-door visits, and, most importantly, get-out-the-vote efforts.

“We’re pulling out all the stops and all of our lists, whether they are mailing lists or e-mail lists,” Mikulski said.

Mike Christianson, the spokesman for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is co-chairing Obama’s Maryland campaign, said his boss also will not be getting much sleep leading up to Tuesday’s election.

Cummings planned to spend most of Sunday making appearances at various churches in Maryland. This morning, Cummings will join Obama at a rally at the University of Maryland to speak to young people, who have been a major part of Obama’s success in the early the primary states.

“There’s always two elements to these elections,” Christianson said. “One is motivation, the other is organization. This election, there doesn’t seem to be much of a motivational problem. Where the help is needed is in the organizational structure.”

And that’s where Cummings has been key to Obama’s campaign in the Old Line State. The organization that Cummings helped get off the ground in Maryland now has more than 130 elected officials endorsing Obama. All those officials contribute their own contacts and organizations in the state.

“Our organization is very special,” Cummings said Friday. After an indecisive Super Tuesday, volunteers are pouring into the late primary states. Cummings said one of his most important duties has been to not let any of that energy go to waste.

“We had basically built the house and had the appliances ready. All they have to do is come and plug them in,” Cummings said of the 4,000-plus Obama volunteers from around the country who were descending on Maryland late last week.

Across the Potomac in the Old Dominion, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) appeared alongside McCain at a campaign stop in Norfolk Friday where Warner’s clout among military personnel in the state played well with McCain’s message of being strong on terrorism. McCain also has an important Congressional endorsement in Northern Virginia in the form of popular Rep. Tom Davis (R) and central Virginia with Rep. Eric Cantor (R).

Over the weekend, both Obama and Clinton were scheduled to appear at the 2008 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Richmond, which is being hosted by the Democratic Party of Virginia. The event is a hot ticket for all the state’s big political players, including Reps. Bobby Scott (D) and Rick Boucher (D), who have given their endorsements to Obama.

“We’ll be doing events … at rallies all over the state,” Mikulski said Friday. “We’re out there working and we know Obama is working too. … A little sleep depravation and a little calorie depravation will be fine. It’s depravation but inspiration.”