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Democrats launch appeal to 2008 first-time voters, to persuade them to return to polls this fall

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 6, 2010 - The important political status of Missouri -- and St. Louis County -- is highlighted this weekend as national Democrats launch their appeal to voters who first cast ballots in 2008, in hopes of getting them to show up again this fall and vote Democratic.

This weekend marked the beginning of the Democrats' "Vote 2010" campaign, with more than 1,000 events planned just this weekend in all 50 states, including Missouri and Illinois.

Organizing for America, President Barack Obama's post-election political arm, conducted on Saturday several training and door-to-door canvas operations in St. Louis and St. Louis County, as well as Springfield, Mo. Supporters are to canvas today in Kansas City.

Lorie Fox of Webster Groves hosted one of the Saturday morning canvassing operations, offering up lists and instructions to about a half-dozen people who showed up. They included Jim Sahaida and Patrick Freesh.

"I support what Obama is trying to do," said Sahaida.

Erin McCann, Missouri director for Organizing for America, said the focus is "reaching out to those folks who voted in 2008" for the first time, and who are believed to have favored Obama and like-minded Democrats.

In Missouri, such Democrats would include the St. Louis area's two members of Congress -- Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan -- and the latter's sister, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Robin Carnahan, in particular, has been emphasizing her disagreements -- as well as her agreements -- with the president and Democrats in Congress. If the few independent polls are accurate, she currently is running neck-and-neck with the best-known Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield.

(Robin Carnahan said in an interview Friday that she isn't putting much stock in polls, especially at the moment. But what she didn't say is that donors and potential supporters do look at such polls, which can have a significant impact on money-raising and voter interest for both sides.)

A strong Democratic turnout in St. Louis and St. Louis County will be crucial to both Carnahans' campaigns. Russ Carnahan is facing a spirited challenge from Republican Ed Martin, a St. Louis lawyer and former chief of staff to Blunt's eldest son, former Gov. Matt Blunt.

McCann said that Democratic activists are realistic as they head into this fall's mid-term elections. "Historically, seats are lost" by the party in power, she said. But the Vote 2010 effort is intended to reduce such congressional losses and prevent the GOP from snagging control of one or both chambers.

McCann explained that, as national Democrats see it, "Millions of 2008 first time voters, African-American, Latino, female and young voters have a special connection to President Obama and feel invested in his presidency. ... Turning out just a small percentage of these voters above historical averages could make a crucial difference in close elections this fall. That effort begins in earnest this Saturday."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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