Peretz, Labor MKs reach out and touch potential voters

Labor Party candidates tried their hand at salesmanship Wednesday as they rang in a new telemarketing drive to sway voters in the upcoming elections. Their sales approach varied as widely as their backgrounds, as Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz and candidates MKs Isaac Herzog, Yuli Tamir, Ophir Paz-Pines, and Ami Ayalon went through phone lists of party members who had not renewed their membership. "The polls are hard for us to understand," said Herzog. "When we go out in the field everyone says they support us. And today on the phones every person I spoke to said they will vote for us. And then we see the polls... "The final figures are going to be the Yom Kippur of pollsters." Those polls, however, have continued to return discouraging results for Labor, as the latest showing saw the party drop to 16 mandates in the upcoming elections. Although officially the candidates have continued to tout their platforms, several veteran members admitted that they were concerned that the party would drop behind the Likud. "People are starting to say that maybe now is the time to switch tactics and position ourselves to be a strong member of the coalition instead of heading the coalition," said one party official. "We just want to get as many mandates as possible." Other party members, however, said that such a tactic might discourage the current Labor supporters who still see the party as a contender for the Prime Minister's Office. "People may have a problem with seeing Peretz as a prime minister," said one Labor official, "but they still want to see us act as strong leaders. We are afraid of losing our base of support. We are fighting for every mandate now." To get those mandates, some candidates used their time on the phones convincing voters that regardless of their feelings towards Peretz, the Labor Party presented a strong socio-economic platform. "Hello, this is Amir Peretz.. You don't know it's me?... Well, you can't see my mustache as well over the phone," said Peretz to one disbelieving woman. "You are Iraqi? My wife is Iraqi! Tell your friends that, get them all to vote for me, I love Iraqi women." Peretz's familiar jovial personality was in full swing as he walked among the phones and joked with voters. Others took their jobs more seriously and tried a variety of tactics on the undecided voters. In the direct speech he honed during years of army service, Ayalon took a pragmatic approach and began offering voters rides to the polls, while Tamir offered insider advice on financial assistance to schools. While Herzog raced through his list, and used his background as a lawyer to ask quick assertive questions, Paz-Pines spent nearly 10 minutes itemizing the Labor Party's platform with one tireless voter. "I am exhausted - these people are tough," said Paz-Pines as he juggled the four ringing cell phones in front of him. "I got him, though. So far everyone I talked to is voting for us." The more than 300,000 phone numbers on the lists had been compiled by Labor volunteers. In the two weeks leading up to the elections, Labor officials said that volunteers would be poring over the list to confirm that the voters came out in support of Labor. Several hours later, Labor Party members gathered alongside family and friends of Peretz for the launching of his biography Here and Now, by Yehoshua Sobol.