Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Yesterday? Fun. Today: We Work

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2008 at 4:00 AM

John Foster, the Idaho Democratic Party executive director, said this morning that as much fun as last night was, today is where the work begins.

"We were not preparing for the last six months just to put on a caucus," Foster told BW this morning. "This was not a fluke. My staff and our volunteers and our leadership have been working in full-bore campaign mode since June to get ready for this day. I mean that literally. Not yesterday. I mean today."

Three months ago, Foster and leadership at Idaho's minority political party told their county chairs they were shooting for turnout that tripled the last presidential caucus vote. The county chairs, Foster said, were dubious, but open to listening.

That's good, he said, because they needed to plan on turning the 20,000 people who turned out to vote in the Idaho Democratic Caucus last night into more than just a one-night stand.

"We're ready to put all 20,000 of them to work," he said. "To have all those people turn out, we had to be ready for it"

As they met with voters last night, party leaders at the local level talked with voters about leveraging the turnout that sent lines of voters around the Grove Center blocks. As reported widely this morning, some 1,000 people in Boise voted without even getting into the Qwest Arena, because the lines were too long.

"We're going to ask every single Democrat in the state to knock on doors this summer," Foster said.

That's where the excitement of a caucus could turn into more victories for Foster's party.

But they'll have a lot of high hurdles to cross. Idaho Democrats fared poorly in statewide elections last year, despite having good numbers in Democratic strongholds like Ada County.

Moreover, Foster also has to find a way to get people who are excited over a rock star candidate like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, and turn them into ground-level activists willing to do spade work for local candidates for the Legislature or other less glamorous positions.

"Their attention may be on the presidential race, but the things that are driving them to participate are the very things that we've been saying all along are wrong with the Republican Party in Idaho," Foster said. "They're not making progress with the things that matter most to people."

And with 20,000 people turning out last night across the state, Foster is optimistic about his chances of turning at least a few of them into door-knockers and volunteers for his party.

"Even if I just get 1,000 of those people out really willing to work on behalf of a local candidate, that's an incredibly powerful thing," Foster said. "I think we'll do a lot better than that."

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