By Stephen Keating
The upstart presidential run of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is drawing volunteers who haven't previously put their time and money on the line for a presidential candidate.
They wear Obama T-shirts and buttons, go door-to-door and use the Internet to recruit. Some are Obama moms - women with children and jobs carving hours out of their week to help the campaign.
"You don't have to have any credentials," said Kristl Tyler, who said she's working 20 hours a week heading up Denver4Obama.com. "We can e-mail while our kids are just playing in the background."
Tyler, 39, is a data analyst who is married, with an infant daughter. A lifelong Democrat, she nonetheless voted for George W. Bush in the past two presidential elections. She said the country is ready for a change and that Obama's "values and intelligence" appeal to her.
Having the Obama family in the White House "could be the new Camelot," said Tyler, referring to the Kennedy presidency of the early 1960s.
Part of Obama's appeal to women is a "craving for authenticity," said Melinda Henneberger, author of the recent book "If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear."
And if Obama's campaign fades, what might happen to those energized volunteers?
"Committed Democrats will go with the nominee, period," said Henneberger. But, she said, the Obama moms and other volunteers "could very well drop out again."
Tyler and other Obama supporters hit the streets Saturday as part of his "Walk for Change," a neighborhood canvassing effort intended to cultivate support and small-donor fundraising.
The Obama campaign claimed that 10,000 volunteers took part nationwide, knocking on an estimated 350,000 doors.
Tyler helped coordinate nearly 200 volunteers who met Saturday morning at South High School in Denver. In the afternoon, she was at Whittier Community Center, one of four locations where volunteers dropped off their paperwork after canvassing.
In Denver, pairs of volunteers who approached 50 houses in four hours were eligible to pay $25 apiece to attend a campaign event scheduled this afternoon with Obama and his wife, Michelle, at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield. The requested contribution for today's event was $500.
"I was a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, doing a lot of the work that a lot of you guys are going to do on Saturday," Obama told organizers during a phone conference last week. "You may get some doors slammed in your face or people arguing with you."
The important thing, he told them, "is to listen."
Obama supporters said Saturday he represents a break with the politics of the past, particularly in his opposition to the Iraq war. They added that U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, may be too divisive a figure to win the general election.
"I kind of want to stop the Hillary Clinton locomotive," said Dorothy Lee, 70, who was among a dozen volunteers canvassing downtown for Obama. She said she hadn't been this involved in political campaigns since the 1970s.