The Ticket

Aug 23 08

The Ticket

Paul Weinstein

After a vacation from the campaign trail and a week of speculation heading into the Democratic National Convention in Denver, It became official this morning, 3:43 am CDT, when the text message went out[1]; Senator Obama has asked Senator Joe Biden to join his race to the White House as the Vice President. No matter who Senator McCain picks it seems obvious, with Biden, current Vice President Dick Chaney and to something of a lesser extent former Vice President Al Gore, the days of choosing a VP to unify a divided party after the primaries just past or a choice to gain favor in a pivotal state in the general election yet to come is waning.

The Vice President may still be without official power, other than to oversee the Senate, but it seems just as true that the position is no longer, as John Adams once wrote, “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” Now the Vice President has become, to some extent a Cabinet position[2], a special advisor to the President, to give his advice and experience, in the case of both President George W. Bush and potential President Barack Obama additional foreign policy knowledge, unto the contender.

While Senator Biden maybe considered a policy wonk, he’s not new to the presidential campaign trail. Yet he has never made it past the primaries, in part because of his lack of appeal with voters outside of Delaware. Which just proves the point, and perhaps the image this campaign is looking for. As Senator Biden said at today’s rally introducing himself as the choice for Vice President, “these times require more than a good soldier[3], they require a wise leader[4].”

Mondale in St. Paul Campaign Office

No vacation of course for me or the state campaign. Instead we got a series of surrogates, including former Vice President Walter Mondale. While Mondale was on hand in the St. Paul office to kick of the Senior Citizens drive on the 73rd anniversary of Social Security, I wanted to hear him speak, if for no other reason, then to say I’ve heard him in person. As it turns out, it seems like I’ll need to keep an eye out to actually introduce myself and meet him[5]since I found out from my Dad, after I sent out a photo from the event, that Mondale is a political hero of his since Mondale, as Attorney General for the state of Minnesota, lead an coalition of State’s Attorney Generals who presented amicus briefs in the 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright that indeed the states need to provide counsel for the defendant if one could not be afforded.[6][7]

But for the most part my time has been building up office infrastructure, navigating issues of all shorts; gather cost, billing, shipping information for services of phone, Internet, etcetera in order to get more offices up and running in as sort as order as possible to call.

To bypass the long, tedious build out of phone lines at all offices via Qwest we’ve started adding and supplement offices with VoIP lines from Vonage. The cost, $10 a line, can’t be beat and the plug and play nature of the devices means some offices can be up and running in no time. However, Vonage customer service sucks. The DFL, which has been handling the actual ordering, has had to deal with the fact that Vonage is consumer, not business (or political) oriented. Our quite large order has been ordered, put on hold, cancelled, put on hold and cancelled, quite a number of times. Luckily, the order includes all the devices we’re planning on needing, so this won’t be an ongoing struggle.

The other side of the problem means supporting the lines falls squarely on me. For the most part, this means optimizing the data compression/sound quality for the offices that have limited bandwidth (given that our offices are scatted all over Minnesota, we have a mix of speeds from a collection of various different cable and/or phone providers) which, thankfully, can be done remotely.

Alas, not all offices are open to a helping hand. Technically only three of our offices, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth are outright Obama campaign offices. This means only three offices where I have absolute say. The rest of our offices are sub-leases of some sort, with us sharing the office with the state party and/or some local official. Which means local office politics have a greater influence on what I can and cannot do then any service provider issue.

While this issue had occurred to me in abstract, I was still knocked off balance by it while trying to wire up a local party official’s office, which besides housing the regional Obama campaign staffers is also hosting several local campaign staffers. Ran head first into the issue in fact, which means I left, after driving half a day with install visits to several other offices “in the area[8]“, with nothing installed after heated words and a fury of phone calls.

So, I’m certainly feeling a bit isolated. I haven’t felt this way in quite some time. Which goes to show how much I’m missing Katie. While, I wish I could be working on the campaign in Chicago, being able to share more of it with her and having her with me, I’m glad I’m not. I doubt I could deal with the stress on wanting to get home just a few minutes earlier in the day to be with her. It’s hard to be so separated, but it’s helpful to be able to dedicate all the time and energy I need to for the job. I don’t feel like I’m neglecting her or transferring my stress onto her.

The next best thing, I guess, will be having some volunteers or assistances. The nice thing about being in the Twin Cities is I’ll be able reach out to a local tech community, via Craigslist, amount other boards and forums:

Minnesota Volunteer Tech Staff: Provide Windows Desktop Support; Network troubleshooting, Printer troubleshooting and Windows troubleshooting on a case by case basis.

The tech volunteer will be local point person for each office offering first level tech support, diagnosing desktop and network issues that include, but might not be limited to, accessing Web and Email, printing, network hardware and/or other Windows software related issues.

The tech volunteer will need to be able to organize and prioritize issues, be able to determine which issues can be solved on an individual basis and which need to be “escalated.” The tech volunteer will need to provide support for non-technical volunteer/staff, pursue issues until resolved and follow-up as needed. As time allows, document evolving procedures and process and perform preventive maintenance such as apply software patches, keeping system software up-to-date.

Initially one tech volunteers per office, perhaps starting with individuals already volunteering taking on some tech responsibilities for each office they are located at.

  • Network Troubleshooting: Know how to access wireless network, be familiar with router/switches/hubs and be able to troubleshoot/restart if necessary.
  • Printer Troubleshooting:  Know how to troubleshooting printer issues; rectifying paper jams, resetting printers (Xerox or other brands), installing and configuring software drivers
  • Windows Troubleshooting: Know how to troubleshoot common Windows XP issues, configure network (wired and wireless) , install software drivers (most commonly printer) as needed, make sure Windows software up-to-date, be able to assist with common Windows software such as Microsoft Office
  • Familiarity with common office phone systems & BlackBerry smartphones
  • Familiarity with Macs (desired, but not necessary)


[1] I doubt the original plan behind the text message was to send a 3am message to supporters and for those who were curious. But by around 10:30 last night the news story started to break and given the promise of “being the first to know” – in trade for giving us your info which we then put in our database – the national campaign’s New Media Group must have found itself in a bit of a pickle.

[2] Mr. Adams probably would have been just as unhappy if he did partake in President Washington’s cabinet in some capacity given the political faults that developed between Hamilton and Jefferson, among others, in Washington’s cabinet that then exploded during Adams’ presidency, to such an extent that Adams simply by passed his cabinet (Jefferson as Vice President caring to have no role and sulking in Monticello) and kept his own counsel.

[3] A not so subtle dig at Senator McCain and his military service.

[4] A not so subtle dig at President Bush and his, um, unique ability to turn a phrase; “I’m going to try to see if I can remember as much to make it sound like I’m smart on the subject.”–answering a question concerning a possible flu pandemic, Cleveland, July 10, 2007

[5] And find a book for him to sign

[6] Florida, sticking to that oh so familiar argument of the South had argued that it was a “State’s right issue” to define if and when a defendant required legal representation if one could not be acquired. Alas, Mr. Mondale provide that, even if it was a state’s rights issue, the view of most states was that indeed the ambiguity of if and when should be removed and a system of public defenders be expanded to provide legal counsel in all criminal cases if need be.

[7] If I do manage to meet Mr. Mondale, I doubt I’ll need to express that my father is indeed a practicing lawyer. For only a lawyer, or in this case the son of a lawyer, would mention being honor to meet, not a former Vice President or former Presidential nominee, bit an attorney who help significantly reshape the criminal justice system.

[8] i.e. same side of the state. For example, I plan my trips such that if I’m heading to Moorehead, that I also have everything I need to St. Cloud.