Presidential Race
12:04 am
Sun March 4, 2012

Va. Campaigners Persevere Despite 2-Person Ballot

Originally published on Mon March 5, 2012 6:35 am

Virginians will choose between just two candidates on the state's primary election ballot Tuesday: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

The rest of the Republican candidates failed to collect enough signatures last fall to get on the state's printed ballot. But that hasn't made Romney and Paul's campaigners complacent.

At the headquarters for each candidate in Northern Virginia, volunteers and staff are busy gearing up for Super Tuesday, when voters in 10 states will pick their party's nominee.

For the past two weeks, 55-year-old Rob Hartwell has spent every night and weekend using his own cellphone to call every Republican, moderate Democrat and undecided voter in Northern Virginia he can track down. The lifelong Virginian is one of several volunteers working to ensure local residents cast their ballots for Romney.

He says that even though there's enthusiasm for Romney, he still expects a low turnout at the polls Tuesday.

"When most of the candidates failed to get on the ballot, it absolutely diminished a lot of the view that there was a contest here," he says, "but if our people think that he's automatically going to win, they're not motivated to vote, they don't turn out, we don't remind them to vote, then Ron Paul can have a better showing than he expects."

Paul's people are busy trying to make that happen at their headquarters in Springfield, Va. His press secretary, Gary Howard, said he didn't have time to talk with NPR. In fact, the campaign would not allow the reporter inside the secure office suite for more than a few minutes.

Romney's Manassas, Va., operation is run out of a small construction company's office that rents space to the campaigners during off hours.

Valerie Green is another Romney volunteer who helps Hartwell coordinate the campaign's phone-banking efforts, even if that means spending several minutes trying to convince people to vote for Romney.

At one point, Hartwell spent more than seven minutes talking with one woman he described as an African-American Republican and an Evangelical. She prefers Santorum to Romney, Hartwell said, after trying to convince her otherwise.

Still, when he finally hung up, he sighed with relief.

"She said if Mitt Romney is her nominee, he's going to be a great president, I know he'll make a great president, and I'll be there to work for him," he said. "So mission accomplished on that one voter, but it took some time, as you could tell."

Hartwell has another hundred calls to make by Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the world of politics, this Tuesday is Super Tuesday. Ten states will participate in the Republican presidential primary. Voters in Virginia, however, will choose between just two GOP candidates: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. The rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls failed to collect enough signatures to get on the state's ballot. But that doesn't mean that the Romney and Paul campaigns are resting on their laurels. NPR's Teresa Tomassoni visited the Virginia state headquarters of both candidates, where volunteers and staff are busy gearing up for Super Tuesday.

TERESA TOMASSONI, BYLINE: For the last two weeks, 55-year-old Rob Hartwell has spent every night and weekend on his cell phone. He's calling all Republicans, moderate Democrats and undecided voters in Northern Virginia he can track down.

ROB HARTWELL: Hello, Jean. This is Rob Hartwell calling from the Romney campaign headquarters out in Manassas.

TOMASSONI: The lifelong Virginian is one of several volunteers working to ensure local residents cast their ballot for Mitt Romney. He says that even though there's enthusiasm for Romney, he still expects a low turnout at the polls Tuesday.

HARTWELL: When most of the candidates failed to get on the ballot, it absolutely diminished a lot of the view that there was a contest here. But if our people think that he's automatically going to win, they're not motivated to vote, they don't turn out, we don't remind them to vote, then Ron Paul could have a better showing than we expect.

TOMASSONI: And Paul's people are busy trying to make that happen at their headquarters in Springfield. So busy that his press secretary, Gary Howard, said he didn't have time to talk with NPR when I visited. In fact, the campaign would not allow me inside the secure office suite for more than a few minutes. The Romney headquarters is run out of a small construction company's office that rents space to the campaigners during off hours.

VALERIE GREEN: Hi, can I speak to Yvonne, please?

TOMASSONI: That's Valerie Green, another Romney volunteer who helps Rob Hartwell coordinate the campaign's phone-banking efforts.

GREEN: Could I ask you two questions? Thank you. We get a lot of that now.

TOMASSONI: At one point, Hartwell spent over seven minutes talking with a woman he described as an African-American republican and an evangelical. When he finally hung up, Hartwell sighed with relief.

HARTWELL: She said if Mitt Romney is her nominee, he's going to be a great president, I know he'll make a great president, and I'll be there to work for him. So, mission accomplished on that one voter, but it took some time, as you could tell.

TOMASSONI: And Hartwell has another hundred calls to make by Tuesday. Teresa Tomassoni, NPR News.

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MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.