BALTIMORE — Holding a clipboard with the names and addresses of registered voters, Erin Wheeler, 16, went door-to-door for Barack Obama in Northeast Baltimore Tuesday Feb. 12, the “Potomoc Primary.” She is my youngest granddaughter.

It was frigid with snow flurries and our fingers and toes were freezing. Many people were not home. Finally, she knocked on the door of Bernice Brown, who opened the door, and Erin told her she was getting out the vote for Obama.

“I’ve already voted,” she told us. “Obama? He’s my man. Yesterday was my 83rd birthday. He’s calling for change. It’s long overdue.”

Erin felt her fingers and toes thaw a few degrees.

Since covering the Obama campaign in Baltimore and in Columbia, S.C., I can report that, “Change, it’s long overdue,” is a constant refrain from voters.

Obama has tapped into the longing of the people after seven years of the Bush-Cheney regime. Many are youth, like my granddaughter (who can’t even vote yet), who have been turned off by the slimy, corporate attack machine of Bush, Cheney, and their spinmeister, Karl Rove.

There is a spontaneous factor sweeping millions into the 2008 elections. Obama calls it a “movement,” not the usual election campaign. He is reaching across the partisan divide of Democratic, Republican and independent, uniting sectors of the electorate — race, gender, class, and region — cunningly divided by the Republican right.

Spontaneity alone does not explain Obama’s surge, though. It is an organized, “get-out-the vote” effort that is reaching deeper and deeper into communities across the country.

Instead of top down, it is bottom up. My wife, Joyce, organized several early morning “Obama waves,” at busy intersections near our home. She posted the time and place on the Obama campaign web site. More than 20 people responded by e-mail that they would join her. And mostly, they did.

At one, about 20 people, including our district’s General Assembly delegate joined the banner wave. They held up big hand-lettered signs with the message, “Vote Obama Feb. 12.” They were greeted by a din of honking horns from passing motorists.

The Obama campaign is out-organizing every other candidate Democrat or Republican, and making superb use of the Internet. It is conspicuous that in many urban and rural communities, Obama’s campaign enjoys a monopoly. Many in these communities see very, very little of any other candidate’s campaign.

The Potomoc Primary brought home the power of this grassroots strategy. Over 2.6 million voters cast ballots in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. The Democratic total was 1.8 million. The Republican total was 762,000. That means that 70 percent of the voters in the three Feb. 12 primaries voted Democrat, 30 percent Republican.

Obama’s total was 1,144,549 exceeding by more than 100,000 the combined vote for Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain.
Exit polls showed that Obama won a staggering 90 percent of the African American vote. He won a majority of white men and white women in Virginia. He won half the Latino vote. Twenty-five percent of those voting were union members and 63 percent of them voted for Obama.

But there is another way of adding up these votes: Combine Obama’s vote with Clinton’s and you get a stunning 1,790,721 votes against the Republican right. McCain and his Republican rival Mike Huckabee trail with a combined 687,136 votes. (It is not clear that Huckabee voters will swallow their profound loathing of McCain and vote for him in November).

If the grand anti-Bush coalition succeeds in rallying all those Obama and Clinton voters behind the Democratic nominee in November it will produce the biggest landslide since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s election in 1932 and reelection in 1936.

Donna Edward’s victory in Maryland’s Democratic primary proves that this movement is deeper than a partisan shift. Edwards is a champion of women’s equality, against the Iraq war, a partisan of union rights. She was endorsed by the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Service Employees International Union. She trounced eight-term incumbent Democrat Albert Wynn, who voted for Bush’s Iraq war resolution and for Bush’s punitive, anti-working class bankruptcy bill with 60 percent of the vote. Edwards’ victory reminds us that we also need a landslide in the House and Senate races to end the tyranny of filibuster and veto on Capitol Hill. And she proves that the time is now to remove Bush Democrats from office.

Just before they leave headquarters to go door-to-door, Obama volunteers pump their fists and shout, “Fired Up! Ready for Change!” I can’t remember a time of such exhilaration, of such a palpable sense of positive, pro-people, change “blowing in the wind.”