In one instance, AFP's targeting appeared to have missed the mark: "I'm a Rhode Island-raised Democrat," one Obamacare supporter said at his door. "Still want to talk?" On other occasions, AFP organizer Alisa Ardiles said, she'd been menaced. "I had someone threaten to shoot me last year," she said. "He thought we were Communists because of the flame symbol. I said, 'sir, I cannot stress enough that we are not.' You meet some characters."
But the targeted door-knocking does bring people into the fold. At one door, Ardiles encountered a woman who hadn't heard of Medicaid expansion before but pledged to call Gardiner's office after hearing Ardiles's pitch. The Medicaid program was already creaky, she said, and it couldn't handle one million more patients—especially if the state would eventually have to take over the cost.
"I think you're right," the woman finally said, promising to use the information to call Gardiner's office. So did several others who answered their doors that morning.
AFP's work hasn't dissuaded the Senate, which last week passed Gardiner's new plan nearly unanimously. But it ran aground in the House last week, where hardline position against the expansion had looked more and more likely to win over the last few months.
"I would have said eight weeks ago I didn't understand what the House was doing," said Tre' Evers, a Republican consultant from Orlando. "But AFP has successfully branded this around Obamacare, and as a fight opposing that."
Moreover, the grassroots work AFP does on policy issues helps build its growing volunteer base. Some eventually join as part- or even full-time staff members, fueling the growth that has AFP-Florida looking at new places to establish field offices.
Part of their door-knocking program is designed to encourage contact with potential volunteers, who would then help recruit more volunteers. At other times, the focus might be on politics over policy, which has its own ways of bringing more people in. Then, by the next legislative session, there are even more volunteers to push issues before lawmakers.
"People are just shocked to find out this isn't a go-away operation," said Chris Hudson, AFP's Florida state director. "We have diehard activists who work year-round."
Gardiner, their chief opponent on Medicaid expansion, is less sure of their influence. "I don't know how big their presence is," Gardiner said in an interview. "Certainly everyone knows their connection with the Koch brothers, and they've done some mail in my and some other areas. But both sides are advocating and doing mail. It doesn't bother me. And God bless 'em for participating in the process."
Other Republican legislators get more volatile about AFP. State Sen. Nancy Detert was one of the Republicans pushing the film tax incentives earlier this year. "I hope you are getting paid a lot of money to show up to these meetings and say meaningless things," Detert said, on camera, to an AFP rep opposing the bill. "Obviously, you are for prosperity for yourself, and not other people in the industry."