CHICAGO, 5:00 p.m. – 17-year-olds Logan Spears and Miguel Pazoz from West Virginia visited Barack Obama’s former barbershop to have his name shaved into the backs of their heads. Then, they ate in Valois’, Obama’s favorite diner during his years in Hyde Park. Next, they plan on tracking down sold-out tickets to tonight’s Obama rally in Grant Park.
CHICAGO, 4:40 p.m. – According to 61-year-old Roilynn Brown, today is Obama day.
“Obama day! Obama day!” Brown chants to passersby on 53rd street in South Side neighborhood Hyde Park while handing out copies of the Hyde Park/Bronzeville community newspaper. “Here, take your newsletter.”
Brown stands outside of a Dunkin Donuts, opening the glass door for women entering or exiting the donut shop and encouraging people to vote. For Obama.
“We’re definitely confident,” Brown said. “All we have to encourage us is faith and hope, and that’s what this whole campaign is about. We hope that tomorrow is going to be better than today.”
At least in Hyde Park, everybody who is anybody is voting for Obama, Brown said. The Illinois senator shares their background and their sense of community, he said.
“Obama day!” Brown shouts to three men as they amble down the street. The guys are black and they look about 20 years old; they wear oversized jeans and the hoods of their sweaters are pulled over their heads, even though it is 70 degrees outside.
“McCain day!” one of the pack yells back at Brown. He pauses for a second, then laughs and yells out, “Psych!”
“Boy, don’t even play like that,” one of his friends retorts. “You’ll get your ass shot if you say that out here.”
CHICAGO, 11:38 a.m. — Here in Hyde Park, the leafy South Side neighborhood where Barack Obama made his home and launched his political career, his neighbors say they remember voting for him when he was their state senator. But, they said, they never would have predicted that they might some day vote for him for president.
Obama himself returned to his polling place at Shoesmith Elementary to cast his own ballot around 7:30 this morning.
John Hall, who lives across the street, said he had never seen his precint so crowded. In past elections, you could walk right in but today the line stretched around the block.
But this is no ordinary election for the residents of Hyde Park, who have known Obama as a neighbor, a state senator, a U.S. Senator, and now a presidential candidate.
DENVER, 1:49 p.m. — Every once in a while as he walks through the United States Capitol, Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio is pulled aside by a security guard. “They say, ‘Who do you work for?’” Ryan said.
But the 35-year-old Democrat doesn’t mind. His relative youth, he says, is a political advantage — and something that should encourage other young Democrats to seek public office.
“A young candidate brings certain intangibles to the table,” he said. “A million people told me, ‘You’re too young to be corrupt; I’m voting for you.’ It could be that simple.”
Ryan was among several prominent young politicians, including Nebraska Senate candidate Scott Kleeb GRD ’06, who urged their fellow young Democrats to consider public office at a panel discussion at the Democratic National Committee’s Youth Caucus.
“In our lives, for our families, for our future and for this country … right now is our defining moment,” Kleeb said. “We have to get involved.”
Traveling to such a political hot spot as South Carolina, I expected to run into fellow reporters covering the campaign trail. However, I wasn’t really expecting to run into them in line at “Five Guys Burgers” at 7:30 a.m. in the Washington, D.C., airport.
That’s where I met Kevin and Sreya, a reporter and cameraman working for Reuters and also traveling to South Carolina. After demolishing my burger (and after Karan similarly disposed of his breakfast burrito), we sat down with them to talk about what it was like to cover the primary season for a news service like Reuters. Because Reuters focuses mainly on an international audience, their angle is significantly different than that of the traditional American press. According to Kevin, “When the primaries started, we had to explain what a primary is. The international audience is pretty much concerned with who’s going after Bush. They don’t care about health care … they care about Iran.”
The pair also discussed the implications of the youth vote. In reference to the primary two weeks ago, they said, “In Iowa, the youth vote definitely mattered. People are out voting who have never voted before.” We also talked about the difficulties of covering a subject that is so often changing at the last moment. For example, while covering Iowa, “The media didn’t even realize Huckabee was going to come out on top. We had to react to that.”
Upon our arrival in Charleston, we dealt with a plethora of transportation difficulties. It was our original intention to proceed to Aiken, S.C., the site of a supposed GOP rally featuring the prominent Republican candidates. However, after two hours of failed attempts to secure transportation to the 140-mile distant Aiken, we got in touch with Abi Nicholas, a news clerk at the Charleston Post and Courier. Abi offered to let us cover the rally with them down at the newsroom, as well as interview key members of their news staff.
When we realized that the rally in Aiken was not all it was cracked up to be, and the only candidates in attendance were individuals who were only running in South Carolina, we took Abi up on her offer and headed off to visit the Post and Courier in downtown Charleston. A 20-minute cab ride (and an unexpected stop for fuel) later, and we were in the foyer of Charleston’s most prominent newspaper. We were greeted and escorted up to the newsroom by our host, Abi, a recent graduate from the College of Charleston and former news editor of their student newspaper.
She introduced us to Robert F. Behre, the politics editor, who talked to us about the influence of the students on the race, and on the candidates’ differing approaches to swaying that segment of the vote. According to Behre, “Ron Paul and John McCain are the only Republican candidates to even acknowledge students.” He also made mention of the striking differences between this race and the S.C. 2000 primary. Behre said, “This primary is different: In the GOP eight years ago, there were only two candidates: It was a much bigger deal. Bush’s win got him the nomination. This time, there’s not a front runner, and it’s all very up in the air. There’s not as much media, and we’re all try to cover four or more campaigns.”
We then talked to Douglas Pardue, a former political correspondent, and current special features editor. Pardue used to enjoy politics, but was moved to special features after covering a heart-wrenching tale of a young girl’s tragic death. He believes, “People is what journalism is all about, not politicians … what makes people happy, and mad, and sick.” This didn’t stop him from commenting on Obama’s “star power” and the fact that “Iraq is a big deal to people, but when it comes down to it, people are going to vote for the economy.” He concluded his mini-speech with the prophetic statement, “Humans beings don’t exist in news coverage … only people with titles.”
When we were done at the Post and Courier, Abi put us in contact with the student media at the College of Charleston. There we were shown around by Sam Tyson, the editor-in-chief of the George Street Observer, the main student newspaper at the college. We saw the media building, encompassing the student radio station and television studio, as well as showing us the offices of the newspaper. We talked about the local “Bully Pulpit” series, in which presidential hopefuls are invited to come speak to crowds of 1000+ students. McCain was one of the most prominent candidates to take part in the series, and according to Tyson, it garnered him a great deal of support among the student body. Barack Obama also held a separate rally on the campus last week, drawing a large crowd of both students and townspeople. Tyson said many students are very concerned with promoting diversity on campus and they “look at the Obama candidacy as a way to be put on the map as far as being listened to.”
While briefly touring the school, we got into a fascinating discussion with an outspoken campus security guard who had opinions on every candidate and something to say about almost every happening of the election so far. When she was in school, she said, she had been a journalism major and had enjoyed covering politics and elections then. Though she is now in her second career, she still enjoys keeping up with politics and discussing it whenever possible.
On our way off of the campus, while saying our goodbyes to Tyson, a brightly colored Suburban pulled up to the curb outside of a FedEx/Kinko’s, and energetic man sprang out. We quickly determined his candidate affiliation from the veritable mural-sized portrait of Dr. Ron Paul on his vehicle, and his T-shirt sporting the phrase, “Who is Ron Paul?” The man was dashing into Kinko’s to make 700 copies of his homemade survey which he plans to conduct tomorrow himself, because he “doesn’t feel he can trust any other poll.” After introducing himself to us as W.A. Riley, he shared with us his story of traveling from primary to primary, spreading the word about his favorite candidate. In the last few weeks, the Philadelphia resident has been to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and plans to visit New York and New Jersey on Super Tuesday. He then proceeded into an impassioned tirade extolling the virtues of Dr. Paul, while giving us armfuls of pamphlets, papers and informational DVDs guaranteed to make us understand and agree with Paul. When he completed his spiel, he politely excused himself (after inviting us to a Paul rally Friday evening) to rush off to make his copies and prepare for his one-man protest against modern statistical methods.
While South Carolina certainly isn’t as charged as it has been in primaries in past years, it’s definitely an exciting time in a primary season where a win in the state could shift the deadlock that the leading candidates are now in. With only a short time remaining before the polls open, the rallies and last-ditch efforts on behalf of the Republican candidates and campaigns will certainly provide a great test of the organizations and efforts of the candidates and their supporters. But we certainly can’t discount the efforts and impacts of maverick campaigners such as Mr. Riley.
NEW HAVEN, 12 a.m. — The Republican field moved one step close to completely gonzo this evening as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney plowed his way to a victory in the Michigan GOP primary. Romney upped over McCain 38 to 31 percent in the fourth such nominating contest on the Republican side of the ticket; Romney also won the relatively unimportant Wyoming GOP caucuses on January 5. The victory sets up a three, four, or five-man race for the nomination, depending on which pundits and campaign organizers you listen to. Undisputed is the fact that Romney needed a win here tonight; a loss in the state where his father successfully governed from 1963 to 1969 would have sealed the fate of the younger Romney’s 2008 Presidential bid.
he Democratic ballot, on the other hand, was notable for its lack of names. Michiganders had the opportunity to vote for New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, or Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. Oh — and an illustrious candidate named “Uncommitted.” After learning that the National Democratic Party would penalize the state’s early primary move by stripping Michigan of delegates, Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards wrote off the state’s contest, choosing instead to focus their resources on South Carolina and Nevada. Results in the Palmetto State next week could hold the fate of Edwards lagging second campaign for the presidency and a victory in Nevada would give the Obama campaign a new head of steam after its New Hampshire hiccup.
With the results in, Michigan voters chose Clinton over Uncommitted by a comfortable margin of 56 to 39 percent, heading off a potentially nasty embarrassment for the former First Lady. Although he bowed out of the race after Iowa, Dodd no doubt appreciates the show of support from a few, devoted core of Michiganders — 3.417 Democrats sent their ballots his way last night, enough to garner him 1 percent of the vote.
In the last few days of any campaign, regardless of your party, a virus passes around the volunteers and organizers on the ground. It isn’t the flu, because they’ve been working hard. It isn’t strep, because they’ve been phone banking for hours. It’s a vicious case of Gidoudavote (pronounced Get-Out-The-Vote). Common side effects include cold feet, amnesia and a tendency to repeat the same motions over and over.
The Left is accustomed to being labeled eternally idealistic not as an accolade, but an epithet. But every four years, the Democratic Party’s establishment enjoys labeling other Democrats naive. John Kerry said it about Howard Dean in 2004 and it stuck, leading to Dean’s demise. In this election cycle, Hillary Clinton, calling Barack Obama’s campaign a “false hope,” has thrown at him the word “idealist” hoping to achieve the same end.
NASHUA, N.H., 1 a.m. — In a stunning reversal of fortunes, New York Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 overcame Illinois Senator Barack Obama to win the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, re-establishing herself at the top of the Democratic field and dealing a devastating blow to Obama’s surging campaign.
MUNCIE, Indiana, 5:25 p.m. — Earlier today, I was driving around the bustling town of Muncie, trying to get a few errands done before trekking back to school later this week. Typical for me, I let my mind wander. It wandered onto Saturday night’s debates on ABC.
I watched the debates then, and I watched them again Sunday on CNN. I thought I’d digested just about everything I was going to draw from the four-hour-long program, first featuring the six Republicans and then the four Democrats.
However, on my drive today, I realized a little something about the two sets of candidates. The Republicans were six white males. The Democrats consist of one white male, one black male, one Hispanic male and one white woman. Diversity, or for the former, a lack thereof. It’s so obvious that I didn’t see it.
The division between race and gender among each party’s presidential candidates is not mere coincidence. It makes a statement about the parties those candidates represent.
The Republicans appeal to a majority that has maintained power in America since the colonial period. The Democrats are the minorities who have never been adequately represented in American political life, and together, they intend to rectify history.