The Guide for Canvassers – Lesson 4 – Appear Local

One of the most important things to remember when campaigning is to appear local!

Door-to-door campaigning can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of campaigning, especially when you aren’t the candidate.

A friend and I went campaigning in an important election in autumn of 2004. It may not be as fashionable as campaigning for Barack Obama, but we flew out to campaign for John Kerry and John Edwards in the 2004 Presidential election in the United States.

We called the Democratic National Committee in Washington to tell them that we would be in town and asked where we could most usefully deploy ourselves.

We were asked to report to Lancaster City, in Pennsylvania, so we duly did.

The local members seemed a little uncertain quite what to do with a pair of Brits but we were promptly sent canvassing around a very nice suburb, which was described as Republican-leaning in the important swing state.

We began knocking on doors and were having moderate success when a man answered his door. I should add I was dressed well, as American politicians do.  He looked at me as I asked who he thought he would support.

His jaw gradually dropped as I clearly came across as being un-American, he retreated slightly and turned to call his wife.

‘Honey, the British are coming!’  Thankfully they were Democrats.


‘I say it’s always best to have the standing ovation before the speech…’

Obama's Nobel Prize is a standing ovation before the speech!

President Obama's Nobel Prize is a standing ovation before the speech!

My first ever experience of witnessing a standing ovation, and being involved in one, was before listening to Roy Jenkins, then the father of the Alliance between the SDP and Liberal parties in 1986.

The ‘Alliance Re-launch’ was at the Barbican centre in London, I was 16 and I had recently become a member of the SDP.

Roy Jenkins was greeted with rapture by the assembled throng, and before he could speak, Jenkins was subjected to a lengthy, and I felt genuinely affectionate, standing ovation.

He responded in his usual avuncular and patrician manner, saying, ‘I say it’s always best to have the standing ovation before the speech, but you don’t know what I am going to say yet…’

I can’t help but feel this is how President Obama must have felt this morning as he woke up to the news that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, and uttered ‘no pressure then,’ under his breath. This is a statement by the Nobel Committee as much as upon what went before as on Obama, and importantly what pressure they can bring to bear on the President to follow through on his promise.

It has been clear that many of the liberal intelligentsia who lauded him before, during, and since, the election for US President have convinced the Nobel Committee that the President is already doing more for world peace than anyone else.  If this is true then it is an extremely disappointing indictment and says very little for the chances of world peace ever being achieved.

This standing ovation, delivered to the President, before he has even spoken, is extremely generous and may fairly reflect global opinion that all our hopes rest with him if there is to be any prospect of preventing North Korean and Iranian military aspirations and for one I say good luck to him.

It may, on the other hand, represent another counter-intuitive act by the Nobel Committee as it has regularly awarded the prize to the equally, if for different reasons, surprising recipients such as Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat and Theodore Roosevelt. Let’s be honest if the Henry Kissinger can win it anyone can!