Blanche Drakeford and Cora Floyd each addressed a small group of Obama supporters gathered in a meeting room at San Antonio Grill in Brookland last Thursday to watch the last evening of the Democratic National Convention.
Their message to the listeners was unvarnished and blunt. Register, vote and encourage friends, family and all who they come in contact with to go to the polls.
"We've got to get Barack Obama back in office," Floyd said. "People thought he'd swoop in and change everything but there's still a great deal of work to be done. If you pay $60 to go to a party and it's raining, you'd still go to the party so if it's raining on November 6, get out and vote. I'll be doing all I can to get him re-elected.
Drakeford offered a similar message.
"This election is going to be close. People have lost their enthusiasm but there is a clear choice," she said. "If the grassroots gets the vote out, that will get him re-elected. He has a record of success. I love him for his American values. Barack Obama makes a difference."
Jessica Thompson, her husband and neighbor Ben Friedman walked the few blocks from their homes to be a part of the crowd at the African Americans for Obama watch party in Northeast.
"I thought we would come and hang out with fellow Democrats," said Thompson, 33, and an expectant mother. "I am curious to see how his [Obama's] speech will measure up to [Former President Bill] Clinton. And I'm curious to see if he talks about what he has delivered versus the future and moving ahead."
"... I'm grateful for his thoughtfulness and his intelligence but people have been disappointed sometimes because of his compromises. Overall, I'd give him a 'B.' I see a clear choice between him and [GOP challenger Mitt] Romney more so than in other years."
Across town at Touchdown, a sports bar and restaurant on U Street, a multicultural, multi-ethnic mélange of enthusiastic Democratic supporters gathered on three floors of the establishment to watch the convention, which took place over three days in Charlotte, N.C. Most of the patrons looked to be in their 20s and 30s, which is a key demographic the Obama campaign seeks to recapture.
Whether it was the hundred or so people on the ground floor, the 60-plus folks on the 2nd floor or the remainder on the top floor, all eyes were glued to the bank of televisions that lined the walls.
As patrons entered the sports bar, they were asked to register by Obama for America campaign workers. Howard University student Iman Aziz surveyed the throng on the ground floor, stopping from time-to-time to converse with fellow campaign workers or to gaze at the proceedings on television.
Aziz, a Fellow with Obama for America, said she enjoyed being in one spot with people of like mind and who fall into an important constituency for Obama.
"I see it as an opportunity to engage a young demographic and it's nice to see people band together even though we don't have a vote in D.C., said Aziz, who grew up in Arlington, Va. "From the people I've spoken to, they're able to identify with President Obama rather than Romney, they're closer in age to the president, he can speak to them, and they're more comfortable with him. He is generally received well by the younger generation and he has a pretty good reputation."
Aziz, a self-described young adult who's studying biology and chemistry, said before and since the convention, her job is to reach as many people as she can with the Obama message.
"We have to show people what we can be like," she said. "We are a point of contact with the everyday voter. Most voters will never meet the president or a senator. I'm a real person and I can show what his [Obama's] policies have done in my life and how this has affected me. We show what the alternative would be under a different [president]."
Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, her colleague Frederica Wilson and political analyst Avis Jones-DeWeever all agreed that the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party needs to concentrate on invigorating segments of its base such as young people, seniors and Hispanics.
"It seems to me very clear that the difference between winning on Nov. 6 and not, is turnout," said Edwards, who represents Maryland's 4th District. "In D.C. and the metro area, we are overwhelmingly Democratic which is a good thing but we have to get out. The president needs popular numbers so he can lead more effectively and with a bigger mandate."
Jones-DeWeever, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women, credits the convention for defining in stark terms the differences between Republicans and Democrats and said the masterful performance of the speakers has led to the increased lead in the polls the president now enjoys.
"It was really one of the most well-executed conventions I've seen by either party," said Jones-DeWeever, 44. "I was really impressed with all aspects, execution, signage, and the degree to which every speaker brought their 'A' game."
Jones-DeWeever said the Democrats offered a clear vision going forward and noted the vast contrast between the GOP, whose speakers engaged in more self-promotion of themselves, rather than Romney. She said the delegate audience was very enthusiastic adding that the convention set the table for the run to the general elections. On Tuesday, September 11, a Reuters/IPSOS poll had Obama with a 47-43 percent lead over Romney.
"We're already seeing the evidence of the bounce. The convention really did a great job getting the message beyond the bounce. The speeches were so extraordinary that they were able to milk it beyond the convention. It reinvigorated the base more than one could expect," Jones-DeWeever said.
"How many times did we see Michelle Obama, Deval Patrick and Bill Clinton the next day and the day after? With the Democrats, every speaker was on message promoting the president. Speakers offered a very vigorous defense and offense on behalf of the president, versus the tepid endorsements of GOP speakers."
No one expects the race to be a cakewalk, particularly given the attention, money and focus the GOP has directed toward voter suppression. But Wilson said Democrats have a key weapon in their arsenal – absentee voting – that they've neglected to use to this point.
Wilson said that voters can sidestep the barriers put in place by the Republicans by submitting absentee ballots in lieu of going to the polls.
"Florida is one of many states which has tried all kinds of voter suppression legislation since the 2008 election," said Wilson, 69, who represents Florida's 17th District. "They did it for the specific purpose of disenfranchising students, seniors and poor people."
She said the courts have reversed some of the more onerous conditions on voting, but "in the meantime, while we're waiting for courts, we're letting a perfect window of opportunity pass," she explained. "We're one of a few states where you have no excuse. You need none. You can vote as long as you are a registered voter. People who take advantage of that are Republicans. Democrats stand in line ... As sure as I'm speaking to you, they'll change the rules. We need to take advantage of the opportunity."