By CHRISTOPHER WILLS – Dec 16, 2007
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP)
Mike Jordan sells Barack Obama door to door.
For the insurance agent from Richton Park, Ill., the role is a natural — he knows sales and he knows Obama. And, as any salesman will say, the most effective pitches are made by those who truly believe in their product.
Jordan says he believes deeply that if everyone in Iowa knew Obama as he knows him, they’d realize what a great president he would make. Unable to arrange that, Jordan has settled for trying to convert a single Iowa city.
So nearly every weekend, he makes the four-hour drive from the Chicago suburbs to Cedar Rapids and spends hours going door to door, telling people about the man he has known for 10 years. He hopes they’ll listen a little more closely to an old friend of Obama, rather than a random campaign volunteer.
“I’m a terrible golfer, don’t have a summer home, don’t have a boat, don’t fish. This is pretty much my passion,” said Jordan, 50, trim with cropped red hair.
Jordan has a list of likely Democratic voters to visit, but he doesn’t hesitate to improvise as he walks the streets of Cedar Rapids. He talks to a random cable-installer or telephone repairman. He visits homes displaying Obama signs to thank them for their support and homes with signs for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to see if can change their minds.
If no one is home, he leaves a brochure. If someone answers the door, he launches into a rapid-fire speech about Obama’s sterling qualities.
A natural salesman, Jordan adjusts his patter for each person he meets.
One woman praises Obama’s intelligence, so Jordan mentions that Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review. A young woman, perhaps a stay-at-home mother, comes to the door, and Jordan brings up Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement. A Dennis Kucinich supporter hears all about Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war.
But one thing remains constant in all his conversations about Obama. “The man he is today is very much the same guy I knew 10 years ago,” Jordan says repeatedly.
Jordan met Obama, then a state senator, when they helped a legislative candidate from Chicago’s south suburbs. He liked the way Obama listened to others and tried to understand their point of view. He liked that Obama was focused on results instead of publicity.
Jordan says they became friends when Obama launched a long-shot run for Congress in 2000, and Jordan campaigned door to door for him during the months before the primary early that year. Jordan often accompanied Obama to events in Chicago’s south suburbs, and they got to know one another on the long car rides. Obama lost that race, but Jordan was back helping on his successful 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate.
Jordan also was among those with Obama the day he launched his presidential campaign. Minutes before going in front of thousands of people and a national television audience to declare his candidacy, Obama took time to hug and thank his friend.
“He has a core kindness to him,” Jordan said.
The people he meets in Cedar Rapids don’t mind his pitch. Rather, they seem to welcome hearing from a person instead of an automated phone call.
“It gives me a sense that there are still people who care enough to wake people up,” said Timothy Georgulis, a young man eating a sandwich in his car before heading to work. “How many of them do you see?”
Wayne Sexton, a Republican-leaning voter, said he was especially impressed that Jordan was tramping through the snow to spread the message personally.
“That means something,” Sexton said.
Obama’s campaign would not let any of its Cedar Rapids staff be interviewed about Jordan and his role in Iowa. A spokesman said they were too busy.
But campaign volunteer Dale Todd said Jordan doesn’t boast about his friendship with Obama or make a fuss about the long drive from Chicago every weekend. Todd said he’d always assumed Jordan was just another Cedar Rapids resident.
“Nobody really knows about this unique connection he has with the candidate,” Todd said. “Because of his style, he’s going to be able to connect better with the people we want to get out to the caucus. He listens.”
Jordan says he doesn’t get many detailed questions about issues. People are more interested in Obama’s personality and whether his private persona matches the public one. Jordan also gets few questions about Obama’s name or his exotic background — Kenyan father, American mother, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.
If a voter has bad information about Obama, such as the falsehood that he was sworn into the Senate using the Quran instead of a Bible, Jordan can set them straight from an insider’s perspective. He was at the ceremony and knows the rumor is false.
Jordan’s wife, Patty, is picking up some of the slack at his insurance agency while he devotes weekends to Obama. He also says a habit of sleeping just four or five hours a night helps him get everything done.
And if the rest of his life has to be put on hold for a few more weeks, well, that’s a sacrifice he’s happy to make.
“People need to know about Barack Obama and what a good president he would make,” Jordan said.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.