I’m searching for Aerjordan.
That’s his legal name. It says so right here on this voter registration printout.
The Obama campaign has sliced and diced all kinds of data and made zillions of phone calls to zero in on potential supporters. I’m walking the streets of Newtown, an African-American neighborhood on the north side of Sarasota, to encourage them to vote.
Florida is a battleground state; the polls show Mitt Romney ahead by a point or two. If we get all the Obama people to the polls, we might just eke out a victory on Tuesday.
There’s much I’d like to know about Aerjordan. Is he lithe and athletic? Does he actually wear Nikes? Or is he just a fat klutz upon whom fate has played a cruel joke? What were his parents thinking?
According to the voter registration rolls, he lives somewhere in this Newtown housing project. I knock on the door of apartment 1775, waiting for an answer.
I move on to the next apartment, searching for a woman named Jennifer.
A grumpy white guy answers. “She’s not here,” he growls. “She took the car and the kids and she ran off on me. And she already voted for Romney!”
Newtown was the scene of some notorious murders last year. Two drunken British tourists took a wrong turn after dark and ended up at a housing project like this one. A teenager named Tyson gunned them down but didn’t even bother to take their money. Then he boasted about the killings to his buddies.
A candidate for district attorney is running a TV ad that tries to exploit the murders for political gain. It’s running over and over again on the local stations.
On this sunny afternoon, however, Newtown is showing its benevolent face. People are returning from the neighborhood’s many churches in their Sunday best. The smell of home cooking fills the air. Many yards are decked out with Obama campaign signs, and most people are happy to see me.
Not Miss Ruby, an obese 71-year-old woman sprawled out on a Lazy Boy.
Her granddaughter opens the door for me; I stand on the threshold without coming inside. Buried beneath a quilt on this 78-degree day, Miss Ruby has her back to me. She doesn’t turn her head when she speaks.
“I’m not going to vote,” she explains. “It’s for religious purposes.”
It turns out that Miss Ruby is a Jehovah’s Witness. Members of this faith consider themselves ambassadors of God’s heavenly kingdom, and they pledge not to get involved in earthly political affairs.
My next stop, at the home of a young man named Letrevis, is no more productive. His front door has been punctured by a bullet, and Letrevis is nowhere to be found.
At the next house, my knock is answered by a guttural grunt from someone who is busy watching a football game.
“Good afternoon, I’m with the Obama campaign,” I begin.
“I already done did all that,” the man replies, without coming to the door.
“Thank you very much for voting, sir.”
The next several knocks bring smiles, handshakes and high fives. We feel like we’re all part of an underground network that’s going to sweep the president to victory. We’re part of a delicious conspiracy – unnoticed by the horse-race obsessed media, which thinks Willard’s supporters are more passionate than we are.
After five hours of work, I head back to the campaign office to tally my results. It’s been a good day. I managed to talk to about 40 percent of the people I had been searching for, compared to just 10 percent the day before.
Back in the office, the chatter is upbeat, full of praise for Barack Hussein Obama. But one woman is gleefully subjecting the president’s Republican foe to some trash talk.
“Mitt Romney walks like he has autism,” she says. “I had a psychiatrist tell me that.”