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Political Campaigns and Civic Culture

Comparing Canvassing and Party Structures in the French and American 2012 Presidential Campaigns

Julien Talpin

Keywords: campaigns; canvassing; civic engagement; elections; political party

I arrive at Organizing for America (OFA) headquarters in Los Angeles at 2 pm for an intensive weekend of door-to-door canvassing in Las Vegas.1 Around ten people are there already, waiting for the organizer who is to coordinate our work on site for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. The organization is clear-cut. Pam, the coordinating organizer we are waiting for, is an employee of the campaign. OFA pays our weekend travel and accommodation costs in exchange for giving a hand with electoral work. Most of those taking part in the weekend have not volunteered in the campaign before: in many respects this weekend in October 2012 will be their only contribution to Obama’s re-election. At the beginning the waiting volunteers do not mingle; the waiting room of the OFA office is silent. Gradually, though, they will become a group. The five-hour bus trip to Las Vegas gives volunteers the chance to get to know each other, exchanging political recollections (Obama’s victory in 2008), opinions on the campaign (why was he so bad during the first debate?), and information about themselves.

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