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One woman's very own grassroots campaign

This may be the grassiest of grass roots. A woman, a messenger bag, some buttons, voter registration forms, a park, a dog, and a listserv.

This may be the grassiest of grass roots. A woman, a messenger bag, some buttons, voter registration forms, a park, a dog, and a listserv.

For Wendy Forman, 60, and Nelly, her standard poodle, this is how it's done, activism in the DIY age, a one-woman band staking out her own do-it-yourself territory in Obama land.

This is a place where someone like Forman, a psychotherapist with an inclination to help, but a disinclination to join, can get an e-mail with a suggestion to "adopt a campaign headquarters" and quickly finance 500 Obama buttons for the HQ at 15th and Sansom.

Months ago, she figured out how to get her slogan - "Another mama for Obama" - on a bag that is sold on, a Web site that lets individuals sell pretty much any kind of customized object they can think of.

Tuesday morning in Rittenhouse Square, across town from where Obama was delivering his since-heralded speech on race, Forman admitted to a stomach full of knots as she fretted, like a mother waiting for her child's music recital to begin, about how the speech would go.

She had her yellow "I nominate Obama" messenger bag, which she has been carrying for a year, and an understated "Obama." T-shirt for Nelly. As a psychotherapist, she is comfortable just walking around and engaging with the masses. On the Obama Web site, she has found like-minded individuals who get an idea, post it, and do it.

"I'm someone who doesn't like signing on to organized activities," she said. "But maybe I want to walk in the park giving out buttons? Who can stop me? This is the first time I've found other people who are doing that."

And she played out a page from Obama's vision of his campaign, as described in his Philadelphia speech, with people of all different backgrounds and ages coming together. Instead of the older black man and the mustard-relish-sandwich-eating young white woman invoked by Obama, there was Forman, a self-described "old white woman for Barack Obama," greeting Linda Whitmore, 42, a black woman from South Philadelphia, who gladly took the voter registration forms that she said would be passed on to her daughter's as-yet-unregistered friends.

And there was Eleanor Blum, 92, an older white woman still on the fence between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Obama, as she walked by Jeb Kreager, a young white man already committed to Obama. Forman turned her attention to persuading Blum.

"If you have concerns against the war, then . . . " Forman began.

"He was against it from the beginning," Blum finished. "She is so smart, but he is something new."

Forman has enlisted Nelly before in political causes. After Rick Santorum started talking about sex with animals, Forman created a protest group headed by Nelly: Pets Insulted by Senator Santorum. They had a bake sale.

In Rittenhouse Square, even without brownies, Nelly and Forman again proved their ability to draw a crowd in the interior of the park. Barbara Kligerman, 85, and her caregiver, Mabel Brown, 51, paused in their walk to continue a long-running political discussion they have been carrying on for months.

Like many Democrats, Kligerman and Brown are not seeing eye to eye in this race. Kligerman is for Clinton; Brown is for Obama. They've gone round and round so much about it that they've recently agreed to just stop talking about it.

"We talk politics a lot, so much we've gotten tired," said Brown, who took a button from Forman but outed Kligerman. ("That's a Clinton lady.") "I wish they'd take the month of June off."

At the end of her morning rounds, Forman ventured over to 15th and Sansom, Obama headquarters, to restock on voter registration forms (the deadline is Monday). It is a place she only sets foot in when absolutely necessary and flees quickly, recoiling from the tentacles of structure and organization, assignment and "unaffiliated walk scripts." She did grab another button for herself, with a message that is more her DIY-style: "I can help you register to vote."

"I've been carrying around the ['I nominate Obama'] bag for a year," Forman says. Noting her dog, her buttons, her woman-at-age-60 whatever attitude, she adds: "There's a definite lunatic factor."

In this campaign, with the various Obama Web sites and e-mail lists serving as loose connectors of many, many disparate parts, Forman and other iconoclastically inclined individuals have been able to do it their own way while not losing touch with the whole. "With most campaigns, you have your regulars," she said. "This really is different."