The breakout sessions at AFP's summit are conveniently divided between education and pure activism. At 11, you had a choice between sessions on "America's Revolutionary Founding" and "How to Communicate 'Economics' to Your Friends" -- both of the rooms for these were overflowing -- or sessions on the web, students, and AFP's election strategy under the "November is Coming" rubric. I went to the election strategy session, where around 100 activists got to hear and watch ads and events that AFP was putting on in Democratic districts. (This was not the only such session; in a breakout for North Carolina activists, the research group Civitas showed activists which Democrats seats were vulnerable.)
"MoveOn.org and Obama's Organizing for America will not know what hit them," said Alan Cobb, VP of AFP state operations." "We will swamp them."
Our main test case: Ohio. The state contains five of the 89-90 districts that AFP views as potentially competitive, according to Cobb, and a slide displayed the results of AFP's November is Coming bus tour and rally in the state: "Built the troops and lasting partners, cultivated new donors, reached thousands." That set the stage for 20,000 door hanger and 160 sign-ups for phone banking. All of this made possible, said Ohio state director Rebecca Heimlich, by smart organizing that contacted Republicans, independents, and Democrats, especially Democrats over 55.
"We brought in Dick Morris," said Heimlich, "who a lot of Democrats still like." (One activist next to me, Glenn Asbury of Indiana, muttered that Morris wasn't very conservative.)
Sean Noble, an Arizona Republican strategist, told the crowd that it had great opportunities to reach out to people who didn't like the GOP but didn't like Democrats either. "The Republican brand is just as damaged as the Democratic brand," he said. "The beauty of AFP is that's issue based, not black-or-white partisan."
Part of protecting the AFP brand was fighting back when Democrats attacked the organization; we saw a web ad AFP put together in response to an attack from President Obama. The audience was sold, and mostly wanted to know more about social media and the possibility of voter fraud or vote suppression. Noble suggested that the fact that the Justice Department did not go after the New Black Panther Party, after two members were taped lurking outside of a polling place in 2008,
"Because they didn't prosecute," said Noble, "there's going to be less voter fraud, because there are going to be more antenna up." He suggested that activists might want to follow the example of conservatives in Massachusetts in January 2009 who took video cameras to polls to film voters coming out and prevent them from voting twice, as they'd heard the SEIU was plotting to do.
"It totally shut them down," said Noble.
"Alright!" said one voice in the crowd, as the rest of the room applauded.
Another question dealt with the possibility that liberals would lurk online to find out what conservative activists were doing.
"There's going to be interlopers in every situation," said
. "There's some in the room right now."