Obama Campaign Office Opens in Sarasota
President Barack Obama's campaign, Obama For America, has set up shop at 305 Gillespie Ave. in Sarasota.
Supporters for President Barack Obama couldn't even make it through the door at a packed opening house Saturday in Sarasota.
"The Obama Knights are coming," said Karen Andre, deputy political director of Florida for the Obama campaign, in front of a standing room only crowd at the headquarters.
Obama For America opened up nine phone banks and campaign offices, including a regional headquarters at 305 Gillespie Ave., in Sarasota., beside the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce offices.
"It's all about momentum," said Rita Ferrandino, chairwoman of Sarasota County Democratic Party. "It's about the fact that people want to see the president elected and they're taking time out of their beautiful Saturday afternoon."
For Ferrandino, the rally re-affirms public support for Obama.
"At times people feel isolated in their support of the president, and it's times like this people come out of the woodworks to celebrate the start of the campaign," she added. She also noted the attendance equals, if not betters, the 2008 office opening rally for Obama on Main Street.
City Commissioner and the Rev. Willie Shaw rallied supporters at the event. Shaw, who noted his appearance was not one representing his office, said that the enthusiasm volunteers showed to re-elect Obama was outstanding.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has his Florida headquarters just down the street on Fruitville Road and having both setting up shop in Sarasota represents the opportunities the city gives to national political players, attendees noted.
"I always feel that it's rally support that candidates get here," Shaw said. "This is always important. Sarasota is such a wonderful city."
Ferrandino added that the city is a great fundraising base for both parties, but ultimately she hopes the Santorum office "becomes defunct."
According to Huffington Post's Fundrace 2012 tracker, Boar's Head owner Frank Brunkhorst has contributed the most in Sarasota to various Democratic causes and candidates, including the Obama Victory Fund, for a total of $88,600 this election cycle.
Obama and the Democratic National Committee has spent about $87 million in operating costs for the campaign, according to a New York Times analysis:
"The gap in spending underscores facts easily lost amid the president’s low approval ratings, his challenges in winning over independent voters and the gridlock he faces in Washington: Mr. Obama brings unmatched financial resources to the campaign trail, and a team with a well-honed sense of where and how to deploy money, people and technology.
“In the past three months, we’ve grown our organizing staff by 50 percent and opened up three new field offices every week,” Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, wrote in an e-mail to supporters on Thursday. “Thousands of volunteers and organizers made 3 million phone calls and in-person visits to voters.”
Manatee County Democrats also are lending their help to the campaign to support the regional office in Sarasota.
The Manatee County club went on a drive to collect names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses leading up to the grand opening of the regional headquarters to organize support and fundraising dollars, said Sheryl Wilson, spokeswoman for the club.
"I think we're all just ready to get to work and I think we recognize the organization is part of the work we're doing," Wilson said.
The campaign is going for a grassroots approach having volunteers focus on getting support in their neighborhoods, according to Democrat leaders at the grand opening.
Leaders at the event noted the young adult involvement being vital to the Obama campaign, as College Democrats of America chapters and members are getting involved to find out what it takes to campaign and fundraise.
The Republican Party of Sarasota sent out an e-mail blast to its base letting people know about the grand opening as a way to increase its own volunteer and donation efforts.
"We cannot . . . we must not let this happen. Our country cannot afford 4 more years of ineffective leadership. Obama may be a failed President, but he is an exceptional campaigner," wrote Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota.