SAGINAW, Mich. -- Two dozen loyal supporters watched President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on a big screen at Saginaw County Democratic Party headquarters, munching chain pizza and home-bakery desserts in a small, converted 100-year-old urban business storefront.
After the State of the Union was finished, they said they will remain committed to person-to-person grassroots involvement, even as campaign big money emerges as dominant in presidential politics.
A report in Commentary Magazine indicates that organizers for President Obama are aiming to raise $700 million to $800 million, short of their original $1 billion goal. Forecasts call for Obama's yet-to-be-named Republican opponent to raise a similar share.
"I've always walked door-to-door during the presidential campaigns, ever since I was in sixth grade (for John F. Kennedy's election in 1960)," said Leo Romo, a retired Saginaw school teacher.
He said some people need prodding to vote, regardless of the unprecedented campaign war chests and the newly minted Super PACs (Political Action Committees), which via a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 2010 allow corporations to make limitless contributions.
"A lot of people don't follow politics at all," Romo explained. "Hopefully, reaching them makes the difference."
Oreata Knuckles is a middle-aged community volunteer and activist in one of Saginaw's oldest and most impoverished neighborhoods, and so she is familiar with grassroots work. She says she pays no mind to the mountains of money spent on campaign advertising.
"I just want to do something for President Obama," she said.
Rosetta Ferguson, in her 20s, accompanied Knuckles to the gathering. Seated in a metal folding chair, she rested her head on an old-fashioned portable linoleum-topped cafeteria table during Obama's State of the Union speech, but she was wide awake.
"I thought President Obama said a lot of important things, especially about teachers," said Ferguson, referring to Obama's call for higher teacher pay, and for merit pay for the best instructors.
Ferguson said she wishes more young adults would get involved.
"They don't see the direct reason for them to participate," she said. "I will ask them (before the November election) to look at their current situation and to look at the impact on the job market, and to make a decision based on that."
Democratic organizers staged a low-key event for Obama's State of the Union address. They will get down to the working brass tacks when the campaign gears up during the spring and summer.
Participants in turn were low-key as they viewed the CNN telecast. Saginaw is a declining auto town 90 miles north of Detroit, and the first cheers arose when Obama proclaimed that the auto industry bailout loans were a success, declaring, "Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's No. 1 car company."
Cheers also arose when Obama pressed for a plan to retain all students in school until age 18, and when he pushed for long-term renewal of the payroll Social Security tax cuts.
There were church-like murmurs of "mmm-hmm" and "that's right" when Obama delved into his call for wealthy Americans to pay a higher share of income taxes.
Meanwhile, on the lighter side, participants chuckled when the cameras showed close-up images of grim-faced Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Whip Eric Cantor.