CBS Touts 'Great Schlep' Effort to Get Grandparents to Back Obama

A night after Sunday's CBS Evening News ended with a feature piece on a 106-year-old nun in Rome who plans to vote for Barack Obama, Monday's newscast concluded with a puff piece on “The Great Schlep,” a Columbus Day weekend effort headlined by left-wing comedian Sarah Silverman to get Jewish grandchildren to travel to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama. In a video clip from the group's Web site which CBS played, Silverman, star of the Sarah Silverman Show on Comedy Central, pleaded: “If you knew that visiting your grandparents could change the world, would you do it? Of course you would,” so “schlep over to Florida and convince your grandparents to vote Obama.”

Anchor Katie Couric's introduction offered no hint to how the effort was on behalf of one specific candidate:
Senior citizens are a key voting block. In Florida, for instance, more than 7.5 million people voted in the last presidential election, and nearly one in five was 65 or older. Many of them, of course, are grandparents, a lot of them Jewish. So how do you win their votes this time around? Call in the grandkids, it's time for the Great Schlep.
CBS reporter Kelly Cobiella, however, soon explained: “An online push started by two Jewish activists to get young Jewish voters to visit their grandparents in Florida and encourage them to vote for Barack Obama. Thousands signed up online, and last weekend dozens of them crisscrossed the country armed with talking points.”

Cobiella featured two who went to Florida to advocate for Obama before she offered a sentence about how Republicans “are looking for votes at tailgating parties instead of retirement homes.”

She then returned to Silverman: “If they vote for Barack Obama, they're going to get another visit this year. If not, let's just hope they stay healthy until next year.” Cobiella concluded: “Now that's political pressure.”

The Great Schlep's Web site outlines its goals:
The Great Schlep aims to have Jewish grandchildren visit their grandparents in Florida, educate them about Obama, and therefore swing the crucial Florida vote in his favor. Don't have grandparents in Florida? Not Jewish? No problem! You can still become a schlepper and make change happen in 2008, simply by talking to your relatives about Obama.
My October 13 NewsBusters item, “CBS Showcases 106-Year-Old Catholic Nun Voting for Obama,” recounted:
Sunday's CBS Evening News ended with a feature piece on a 106-year-old nun in Rome who plans to vote for Barack Obama, her first time to cast a presidential ballot since the New Hampshire native voted for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, because Obama is "a good" and "honest" man. From Rome, reporter Allen Pizzey related how her "simple, old-fashioned standard for politicians," which apparently does not include the Catholic church's opposition to abortion, inspired her to decide to vote for the first time in 56 years. Sister Cecilia Gaudette explained: "As I say, a good straight man; good private life, honest and politically able to govern, of course." As she put her hand over an Obama button on her clothing, Pizzey cautioned that though she's decided "the Democrat fit the bill," she's "not about to campaign for him."
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Monday, October 13 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Senior citizens are a key voting block. In Florida, for instance, more than 7.5 million people voted in the last presidential election, and nearly one in five was 65 or older. Many of them, of course, are grandparents, a lot of them Jewish. So how do you win their votes this time around? Call in the grandkids, it's time for the Great Schlep. Here's Kelly Cobiella.

KELLY COBIELLA: Getting grandkids to visit usually requires a whopping dose of guilt. But in Florida, something else was at work this weekend. At bagel shops and condo pools, grandkids like Emily Cahn were showing up on their own.

DOROTHY CAHN, GRANDMOTHER: And all I heard was she's coming down. And this thrilled me no end because I hadn't seen her in two years.

COBIELLA: Hang on, Grandma Dorothy, there are strings attached.

SARAH SILVERMAN, COMEDIAN: If you knew that visiting your grandparents could change the world, would you do it? Of course you would.

COBIELLA: It's called the Great Schlep.

SILVERMAN: -schlep over to Florida and convince your grandparents to vote Obama.

COBIELLA: An online push started by two Jewish activists to get young Jewish voters to visit their grandparents in Florida and encourage them to vote for Barack Obama. Thousands signed up online, and last weekend dozens of them crisscrossed the country armed with talking points.

ANDREW STEINMETZ, GREAT SCHLEP PARTICIPANT: We got to understand who Barack Obama is.

COBIELLA: Andrew Steinmetz came all the way from the University of Pennsylvania. His grandparents were easy, but their friends?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I don't care for either candidate.

STEINMETZ: You don't care for either candidate?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No. I think you'll make a great candidate.

COBIELLA: It's no surprise to political science Professor Joseph Uscinski.

PROFESSOR JOSEPH USCINSKI, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Grandparents have very well defined voting patterns. They have very well defined partisanship. If somebody came to them and said, "I want you to vote for this one or that one," it’s probably not going to have that much of an effect.

COBIELLA: Which may explain why the competition, Young Republicans, are looking for votes at tailgating parties instead of retirement homes.

HAROUT SAMRA, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI LAW STUDENT: You'll hear it from young people, that this is the most important election of their lifetimes. Short lifetimes but lifetimes nevertheless.

COBIELLA: Still, for Jewish grandparents, the stakes are higher than ever this election.

SILVERMAN: If they vote for Barack Obama, they're going to get another visit this year. If not, let's just hope they stay healthy until next year.

COBIELLA: Now that's political pressure. Kelly Cobiella, CBS News, Boynton Beach, Florida.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center