At a union headquarters on the edge of Denver, the final-day phone bank is full but often quiet. In these final hours, the calling lists have been whittled down to the final holdouts. It can take several minutes for the automatic dialing system, plugged into AFL-CIO computers in Washington, to cough up a live Coloradan still willing to answer the phone at the tail end of an intrusive political season.
Fran Coleman, 67, has made almost 30 calls and waits for the next one while describing her weekend of door knocking with a union canvass team. "If you're like I was on Saturday you... Hello?," she interrupts herself, touching her headphones and turning quickly back to the screen, "Is this Dornetta Castillo? Oh, Mr. Castillo, hi, I'm a volunteer with the AFL-CIO...."
The Castillos had already voted, as have most Coloradans, so she checks "Already voted" on her computer and thanking them. "I always compliment them for voting, no matter who they voted for," said Coleman, a one-time Democratic state senator and quadrennial election volunteer. "That's my own thing. That's not on the script."
She could also check "No Answer," "Wrong Number" (she's had one of those) or "Deceased." The rarest of all in the last hours of the campaign is "Undecided." She got one of those too, and perked up like the old timers in the creeks outside of Denver used to do when they spotted a glint of gold amid the gravel in their pans.
Coolly, she began a soft sell, telling him she was calling from the union because they were concerned about the future status of Social Security and Medicare. He listened, but as soon as he began to sound impatient, she encouraged him to vote for the candidate of his choice and hung up.
"I think he was leaning our way, but there's a learned art to knowing when to stop pushing and they may not vote at all," Coleman said.