"Been here before? You signed up to drive? That's wonderful! Are you a veteran, by any chance? That's wonderful! Hon, come with me, and I'll put you on the phone for the veterans." She takes a man by the hand and leads him away.
When she returns, she says proudly, "The other day I had a 98-year-old man; he hadn't voted in years."
Lynn Kobrin, center, talks with registered voters on the phone for the Kerry-Edwards headquarters in Delray Beach, Fla.
(Joshua Prezant For The Washington Post)
Four years ago, between rounds of canasta, she did some work for Al Gore. This time, she's here every day. "This is the most important election of our lifetime," she says, "and let me tell you, honey, I have seen a lot of elections. It's my grandchildren I'm worried sick about. At my age, what difference does it make to me? Can we go to any place and get into a war? This bothers me terrible."
There's a fight on for the Jewish vote in Palm Beach County, where the Democrats have a solid registration edge, and the campaign button with "Kerry-Edwards" written in Hebrew is a popular item. The Republican chair, Sid Dinerstein, is fond of saying that the county's Jews are so old, "they still think Roosevelt is on the ticket."
"I wish he were!" says Zarwan. "I wish Clinton were." She may not be as enthusiastic about Kerry, but, she says, Jews are predominantly Democrats "because of the teachings of the Torah," which commands Jews to reach beyond themselves to help others.
Rosalie Weiss, 79, has five grandchildren, "all of whom are the age to be conscripted," she says. Bush's assertions that he will not reinstate the draft and a decisive House vote against such a bill "do not reassure me at all," she says. Her late husband, an engineer, was an executive for the company that did all the heating and air-conditioning work for the World Trade Center. He regarded the towers as his "crowning achievement," she says, and feels grateful that he wasn't alive to see them fall.
"I was 12 years old when Hitler marched into Vienna," she says, as she steers her car carefully toward a large retirement complex where she will canvass. "I remember cowering in a corner, when they marched in and just ravaged my parents' home. I see so many parallels today -- the sneak-and-peek aspect of the Patriot Act, the disdain for the intellectual and the academic that this administration has."
She knocks on 78 doors, carefully recording each contact on her sheet of registered voters. It takes a long time because the old folks who cautiously open the shades then want to discuss politics. It can be a lonely life here in the modest bungalows, and residents crave the social contact of voting. Casper Garber, 98, refuses Weiss's offer of an absentee ballot application and says he will take the bus to the community's clubhouse to vote on Election Day.
Florence Brenner, 80, says, "I'm with you 100 percent, no, 150 percent. But how are we going to protect the vote?" Robert Liptzer, also 80, is a registered Republican. "I'm certainly not happy with Bush," he says. He takes 10 drugs, and some of them cost more on the president's prescription drug plan than they did before he bought the card.
An 87-year-old man who lives alone pushes his walker to the door and invites Weiss inside. On his bulletin board is a hand-printed note that reads: "If I should die, please let Rubin Memorial pick up the body. I am all paid up." Weiss, who is widowed, helps him fill out his application. He flirts with her, and tells her she must come back to help him with the ballot.
Back at headquarters, Maidy gets a broad smile when asked if Democratic fervor helps her get a date. Widowed for 32 years, Maidy has been gently fending off a persistent suitor who keeps calling her for dinner. "I have to be honest with you," she recalls telling him, "this is my passion right now."
And then, after more calls, she relented. "I told him, 'You have a beautiful speaking voice,' " her voice husky and sexy. "Why don't you come on over here and let me" -- and here she pauses, smiling slyly -- "put you on the phone bank!"