UPDATE: Due to Hurricane Sandy, the President returned to Washington on Monday morning, cancelling his Orlando rally
Orlando, FL - Pizza boxes in hand, President Obama's first stop after arriving in the city on Sunday night was at an Obama for America Field Office, where he doled out a late dinner to volunteers and staff. Arriving at 8:46 PM, the President carried six cardboard boxes of pizza, and said they were fuel for the massive amount of phone banking that must go on in order to make up for the Hurricane-related cancellations of his campaign events. Early voting is already underway in Florida. (Above: The President makes his delivery)
"I hate to put the burden of the entire world on you but basically it's all up to you," President Obama joked to about two dozen excited volunteers. "Which is why I brought you pizza."
The President traveled to the crucial swing state a day ahead of a scheduled rally on Monday at the University of Central Florida in an effort to beat the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to be at the rally, too, part of a spate of co-appearances with the President.
"You guys look hungry. You've been working so hard," the President said to cheers as he arrived. (Above, with a junior volunteer)
His short pep talk to the volunteers came in the middle of the office, where his army was armed not with bayonets but with cell phones and call lists. Florida is "critical," the President said. He told the volunteers that at the beginning of early voting, "you guys blew it out!"
Whoever turns out more votes wins Florida and if he wins Florida he wins the election, the President said. He then sat down with the volunteers to make calls.
The President was scheduled to stay overnight at a Doubletree hotel in Orlando ahead of his Monday morning event.
The unedited pool report from the phone banking:
"The Obama for America Orlando office is in a generic office building surrounded by a cluster of strip malls. Around the corner, pool noticed a sign for the Republic of Haiti Consulate. An accountant's office was next door.
The office was a small, packed space covered in photos of the president, handmade signs with slogans -- "Yes we can" and "Empower" -- and placards, including "Hispanics for Obama" and "LGBT for Obama"
A fuller take of POTUS remarks:
"I just want to say I'm so proud of what you guys are doing. Obviously Florida is going to be critical. Early vote started this week. I understand you guys blew it out. But we now have nine days left and we just have to work as hard as we can because Florida is tight. It is going to be a close race, all the polls say it's going to be a close race. So whoever is able to get their voters out, they're the ones who are going to win Florida. If we win Florida we win this election."
Obama made the joke about putting the burden on them. And noted he had to make it back to DC because of Sandy.
"Obviously my first priority has to be to make sure that everything is in place for families, and prepared. Which means that you know that's going to be putting a little bit more burden on folks in the field, because I'm not going to be able to campaign quite as much over the next couple of days."
Obama then decided to make some calls. He told the volunteers to keep at it while he called -- "Don't use your phone to take pictures of me."
He sat at a table with a few others and asked for names. "Who is this cutie pie?" he asked a young girl and a woman
"Leilani" the woman said.
"Hey that's a Hawaiian name. How'd you get that Hawaiian name, girl?"
Pool couldn't hear an answer.
He picked up a phone -- "just ignore me" -- and dialed. It was a wrong number:
"Hi is this Ann? Hi, is this Ann? Oh, I'm sorry, I must have the wrong number," Obama said, to much laughter.
"It happens to everybody," he joked.
Obama then got Ann's number.
"Hi Ann, this is Barack Obama. How are you ... It really is me," he said. Obama praised Ann for how hard she's working. "I know your daughter's sick, so obviously it wears on ya."
Then he called Wanda in St. Augustine and thanked her. Pool was ushered out.
POTUS stayed in the office for another 10 minutes or so. At 9:25 we arrived at the Doubletree downtown Orlando. We have a lid.
Pool was Kathleen B. Hennessey, LA Times
*Photos by by Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America