Eliza Sohn

IN A RAINBOW of rain gear, hundreds of Barack Obama supporters crammed into a vacant Wild Oats grocery store on SE Division Saturday morning, March 29, to get ready to pound the pavement for their favored presidential candidate.

US Representative Earl Blumenauer—in a T-shirt instead of his trademark bowtie—riled up the crowd, there for the official campaign headquarters opening, and the kickoff of this urgent campaign. There are just over seven weeks to go before Oregon's primary on May 20.

"Oregon can put us over the top!" Blumenauer said. Obliquely referencing the protracted battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, Blumenauer called on the volunteers to work hard so Obama wins big in Oregon, which he says will "stop the sort of back and forth, and move [Obama] forward to winning the election in the fall, which is what this is all about."

The sort of door-to-door canvassing volunteers were poised to do that day—hail be damned—"is not just about getting the margin we need in this state," he said. Getting as many individual votes for Obama will "make a punctuation point that gets the maximum number of delegates possible. That's what's going to make the difference with the superdelegates. You can bring them into the column with your efforts."

Blumenauer stepped aside to make way for Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic congresswoman from Obama's home state of Illinois, where she's worked alongside the senator for years. "I saw him work his magic," she said. "He would bring Republicans to the table." If Obama is elected, she said, the moment he replaces George W. Bush and takes the oath of office, "the narrative instantly changes, around the world and here at home.

"Oregon really matters," an energetic Schakowsky told the crowd. "We can win big," she said, by utilizing the "Cadillac" of voter contact, "face to face and door to door."

Then the hundreds of volunteers—at least 500 at this location, and another 500 around the state that day—broke into groups organized by Portland's quadrants to learn the basics about canvassing, before heading out the door to tell their neighbors why they love the senator from Illinois. At the end of the day, they were slated to return for a potluck party celebrating their efforts.