Armenian Americans for Obama Make Last-Minute Push in Ohio

By Thomas C . Nash
Mirror-Spectator Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Operating under the assumption that Sen. Barack Obama will easily carry Massachusetts on November 4, the Belmont-based Armenian Americans for Obama is focusing on swingstates where the last week of campaigning will prove crucial.

Twenty members of the group gathered in Cambridge on October 23 to call Armenian Americans in the Cleveland area. [Obama’s letter to the group appears with this story’s continuation.]

“We wanted a way for Armenians in Massachusetts to influence Armenians in Ohio,” organizer Julie Babayan said. “The idea is you’re going to be more persuasive since you’re from the same community.”

Babayan contacted the Obama campaign’s ethnic outreach program earlier this year, which provided stickers and logistical support for the group.

While many reached answering machines, several of the volunteers had a chance to engage undecided voters. A list of talking points included Obama’s support for the Genocide Resolution in the US Congress and favorable policies toward Armenia.

The callers also encountered several McCain supporters, although the volunteers were instructed not to engage them in a debate.

Dr. Carolann Najarian, who worked the phones for Sen. John Kerry in 2004, said one McCain supporter expressed dismay that Armenians were supporting “socialism.”

“I hate that!” Najarian said. “I wouldn’t discuss it. It’s a waste of time.”

“With those people, you can’t change their minds,” Babayan said.

Volunteer Tsoleen Sarian said she was disappointed that many of the people she called supported McCain. “When I get an Obama supporter, it helps me keep calling. It’s encouraging,” Sarian noted. “One gentleman said, ‘There’s a lot of us out here, so don’t lose faith.’ That was good to hear.”

Armenian Americans for Obama plans to follow up with some of those contacted in person while canvassing the Cleveland area. The phone numbers were provided by the Obama campaign, using a system that highlighted likely Armenian names — which meant weeding out several O’Bryans.

Among the volunteers was Herman Purutyan, Massachusetts state chair of the Armenian Assembly of America.

“My belief is that Obama is the better candidate, and this is doing my part,” Purutyan said. “He’s stated very genuinely his desire to recognize the Genocide. I think his foreign policy will also be beneficial for Armenia.”

Volunteer Alik Arzoumanian went door-todoor in New Hampshire, but said she had avoided making calls to non-Armenians for fear that her accent might cause them concern in this political environment. But, she said, “I figured if I call Armenians it would work.”

Several volunteers crowded around her as she finished talking with an undecided voter.

After citing vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden’s foreign policy credentials, Arzoumanian went in for the kill, breaking away from the script in front of her, asking, “Does Sarah Palin even know where Armenia is?”

The room broke into laughter, figuring they could chalk up a victory. She said later the person concluded the call by saying, “They’re politicians, I don’t trust them.”