Democrats Maureen Walsh and Andy Rosenberg stood on the side of a street in a Northern Virginia subdivision where the hum of Interstate 66 lingered in the background. They studied a rudimentary map of the neighborhood and flipped through pages on a clipboard to brush up on their script.
It was Saturday, a warm autumn afternoon only 10 days before the elections.
The pair, both lobbyists in D.C., was sent by the re-election campaign of Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) to use their skills of professional persuasion to convince undecided voters to cast their ballots for Connolly and other Democrats on the ticket in the battleground state. Connolly is facing a challenge from Republican Chris Perkins, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel.
“One of the reasons I’m out here is people will be energized if they are asked personally for their vote,” said Walsh, a director of government relations at ML Strategies.
Walsh has spent the past several weekends walking around her home in Arlington and neighboring Fairfax County, urging voters to support President Barack Obama, Senate candidate and former Gov. Tim Kaine and the local Democratic Members of Congress.
Walsh and Rosenberg didn’t bump into any other K Streeters on their little piece of the campaign trail, but their Republican and Democratic colleagues are out there – and not just in Virginia. Many lobbyists have decamped for Florida, Ohio, Nevada and elsewhere. Some have taken vacation days or, like Walsh and Rosenberg, spend their free weekend time volunteering on a campaign.
Rosenberg, who also lives in Northern Virginia, is no novice to canvassing. He ran for office in 2004. Though he lost the primary to incumbent Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), knocking on doors and asking voters for their support became routine.
“You have to see yourself in the context of the bigger campaign,” said Rosenberg, a founder of the bipartisan firm Thorn Run Partners. “Would I rather be at a Halloween party with my little girl? Yeah, but if you believe in it, you know it’s the right thing to do.”
The campaign trail – even one just 24 miles from D.C. – often presents some unexpected bumps along the way, even with the map from the Connolly campaign and the scripted messaging meant to persuade undecided voters or to put the pressure on loyal Democrats to show up at their polling precinct. The first set of addresses turned out to be in a gated community, which is forbidden ground, according to Rosenberg.
So, the duo wound their way through Fairfax office parks, curvy parkways and cul-de-sacs until they hit the corner of Stringfellow Road and Westbrook Drive.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.