TENNESSEE (Bob Krumm in Nashville) –
12:22 pm PST:
The weather in Middle and Eastern Tennessee should be fine most of today. Not so in Western Tennessee. On the NOAA website for the Memphis area is a graphic I’ve not seen before. “Timmy the Twister says High Risk of Severe Weather.”
Additionally, the University of Memphis along with the city’s public schools are cancelling classes early because of the threat. When an early school cancellation because of snow happened here in Nashville a few years back it made for havoc on the roadways all afternoon as parents altered their day’s plans to either get their child from school or to be home when they arrived.
The combination of bad weather and early dismissals in the western part of the state could depress Barack Obama’s late-day turnout. It might also hurt Mike Huckabee in the part of Tennessee where he presumably enjoys his strongest support since he was governor just across the river from Memphis.
Hopefully Glenn made it out of Memphis this morning and can provide on-the-ground updates from East Tennessee later this afternoon.
MISSOURI (Jim Hoft) — 12:20 pm PST: It’s a dreary day in St. Louis. The city is under a flash flood warning until this later this evening. This hasn’t hampered turnout any though.
St. Louis County, the most populated county in Missouri, is expected to double the turnout this year compared to the primary in 2004. Absentee ballots have also doubled in the county this year. Local election officials, including the ones working at my precinct in St. Louis City, are saying that things are running smoothly despite early morning lines. Power outages and a janitor who was late to work with the keys caused a few delays in the county- nothing serious. Stormy weather later today may keep voters at home. Amy Procter over in the Kansas City area says the weather is KRAZY on that side of the state. The regional radar shows storms heading towards St. Louis from western Missouri. In central Missouri, where there are strong Republican communities, two men were turned away who didn’t have proper ID’s. You don’t hear of that happening in the city much. There is no word of dead people voting yet but it is still early.
GEORGIA (Kyle Godfrey) — 12:09 am PST: I just got back from voting and the polling station I voted at was not overly crowded. Heavier crowds are expected here later this afternoon and evening after work hours. Being part of the Bible Belt, Georgia has a fair share of Huckabee supporters; lots of signs as I drove around town today made that apparent. We could see a repeat this evening here of what just happened in West Virginia, with Huckabee taking away a number of votes from Romney.
As of shortly before 3pm here on the East coast, the AP has projected Huckabee the winner of West Virginia, giving him, or more importantly taking away from Romney, the state’s 18 delegates.
Voting has been running smoothly here in Savannah, as well as the rest of the state, except for a few problems with churches being used as polling stations having signs for Huckabee on their property or their church signs themselves. Voting was slow to begin due to very dense fog that didn’t burn off until about 10am but is now picking up. Several cities in the Savannah metro area are having record turnouts, like Garden City.
While the lines have been fairly short, if not nonexistent here in Savannah, the same can’t be said about the Atlanta metro area. Barack Obama’s campaign is now asking for at least one precinct in the Atlanta metro area to stay open late due to long lines, some as long as two hours. Atlanta is also reporting only “isolated” problems, namely to do with computers being used to verify voter identification, as per a new law here in the Peach State. This is the first statewide vote in which voters are required to show photo ID. Turnout is big still though, and there is great weather across the state: sunny with temps in the 70’s and 80’s statewide.
Water has been an issue for a while here in GA now with a drought some say has been a century long. Taxes also are a major concern for Georgians in this election.
More as the afternoon develops.
WEST VIRGINIA (Don Surber) — 11:31 am PST: Mike Huckabee scored a huge upset and won the West Virginia state presidential convention on the second ballot. The vote went Huckabee 52%, Romney 47%, McCain 1%.
That gives him 18 of the state’s 30 delegates to the national convention. 9 more will be selected in the May primary and 3 delegates will be uncommitted party officials.
Romney, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul spoke to the convention’s 1,200 delegates in the morning. John McCain skipped it. Romney said McCain’s policies will kill coal.
On the first ballot, no one got the majority needed to win. It was Romney 41%, Huckabee 33%, McCain 15% and Paul 10%. Paul was dropped for the second ballot.
But during the lunch break, Huckabee picked up nearly all of the Paul and McCain votes in a stop Mitt effort.
That’s a big blow to Romney who wasted a campaign stop on Super Tuesday only to see him get the same number of delegates as McCain who skipped Charleston: zero.
NEW JERSEY (Fausta Wertz) — 11:29 am PST: The Star Ledger reports that several voters in Monmouth county who tried to change party affiliation today were unable to since NJ rules demand that voters who plan to vote on primaries must have changed their affiliation by the December deadline.
Apparently some of those voters had been told by campaign phone workers that they could.
Only voters registered as Republicans or Democrats, or Independent voters wishing to declare themselves as either, are allowed to vote today. Voters registered for the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Natural Law Party, Reform Party or U.S. Constitution Party can not.
Earlier today Governor Corzine (who definitely is not changing party affiliation) had difficulty voting because of problems with the voting machine
CALIFORNIA (Roger L. Simon) — 10:50 am PST: Just got to the PJM office in El Segundo having voted early at my polling place in the Hollywood Hills. This polling place is in a public school called Valley View, the kind of mediocre institution to which the many rich liberals in the neighborhood wouldn’t dream of sending their children. They will vote for Obama to assuage their guilt while continuing to shell out the big bucks for the tony elite private schools where the kids tell their classmates mom and dad are voting for Barack to their teachers subtle (or not so subtle) approval. Obama fever is everywhere in this neck of the woods and if Hillary prevails in CA, it will be something of an upset. But then, everyone had the same feeling on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.
On the Republican side, there’s a lot of talk of a late surge for Romney. But the polls are conflicting. If it proves to be true, McCain’s loss may oddly be attributable to Schwarzenegger whose backing is a mixed bag. Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a long night before we know the ins and outs of this.
And speaking of Arnold, he’s thrown his pectorals behind the Indian Gaming Propositions on the ballot, which would extend the number of Indian-run slot machines in the state to a gigantic number for what seems like not a lot of tax money. I voted no. I have a suspicion that, for once, I may be in the majority.
CALIFORNIA UPDATE: Drudge is reporting … in red… “The board of elections failed to deliver voting equipment to polling places ALL OVER LOS ANGELES… Developing…” Maybe so. But I didn’t see it. I suspect this is overblown, but as they say…. developing…
MASSACHUSETTS (Jules Crittenden) — 09:10 PST: The dentistry was painless, and so, as it turns out, was the voting. You’ll feel better once you get that out of the way, believe me.
The normally crowded approach to the middle school’s gym was empty. Usually a Rockwellian picture of good-natured American citizenship, a forest of campaign signs, there was exactly one McCain supporter in the pouring rain, an old vet who had had the foresight to bring a collapsible white event tent.
“There are more Republicans on their way. The Democrats are getting an RV,” he said. That didn’t sound like a great way to meet, greet and make a favorable impression on the people, unless that RV was a big open window and they plan on passing hot chocolate through it. Moderate traffic at ths ballots after the pre-commute rush, no waiting.
A co-worker who votes in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood reported that rain kept all but the hardiest signholders away.
“One smallish Obama sign. I think it was homemade. One large Hillary sign, professionally produced,” she said. Voting had been heavier earlier, but it was light as she came through in mid-morning. Down on hope herself, she nonetheless thinks JP will trend Obamaward. No big surprise, though as she added, “To tell you the truth, it’s really Kucinich territory.”
Another co-worker … Obama-enthused aging hippy with a haircut, a mortgage and kids in college … is convinced that new Black-Eyed Peas, Scarlett Johansson “Yes We Can” vid will swing it. “It brings a tear to your eye.” Yeah, well, the idea that a sappy video could sway the election makes me want to blubber, gnash teeth, rend garments.
Report of a second grader hit by an elderly driver at a school polling place in Randolph, Mass., south of Boston. She was taken into Boston but initial reports suggest she was serious injured, pinned between the car and the school, but she’ll be OK.
Barnstable schools on Cape Cod are edging the polls out of their schools. But it’s not the blue hairs behind the wheel they’re worried about. It’s the idea of letting pervs and terrorists roam the halls.
NEW YORK (Judith Weiss) — 8:55 am PST: I attended a rally for John McCain early this morning at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Rain threatened but didn’t appear during the rally, and it was relatively warm. Among McCain’s supporters on the the podium were his wife Cindy, Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lieberman.
It’s interesting that McCain chose New York, the epicenter of American liberalism, to kick off his Super Tuesday rallies. But perhaps not surprising. McCain has crossover appeal to hawkish liberals, many of whom changed their ideas about foreign policy in the wake of 9-11. He was endorsed by the former mayor, controversial during his administration but beloved by many New Yorkers. The liberal elite in Manhattan may be squeamish about war, but the other boroughs contain many pugnacious and earthy residents who appreciate McCain’s aggressive stance on terrorism.
I interviewed several supporters, all of whom exhibited the New Yorker’s stubborn refusal to be stereotyped. From an Irishman who likes McCain’s position of immigration, to a proud mother of a conservative daughter who disapproves of conservatives who would rather stay home than vote for McCain, they represent the breadth of McCain’s appeal.
Two things impressed me about McCain’s speech: He’s hacked out some positions on the economy since last week, and they closely resemble Bush’s and Giuliani’s. He is appealing to economic conservatives. And his remarks on fighting terrorism were emphatic and blunt. Yes, this election will be, among other things, a referendum on the war.
Here’s two videos of John McCain speech at the rally:
Three interviews with McCain supporters:
1. Irish for McCain, approves of his stance on immigration.
2. Conservative for McCain, disapproves of conservatives who threaten to stay home on election day.
3. Kosovo activist:
ILLINOIS (Rick Moran) — 08:33 am PST: I was planning to vote early this morning but the cold rain discouraged me from making the 1 block walk to the polls.
However, I just got back from voting and can report that my little town of Algonquin may be a harbinger for many states where independents can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary and crossovers are allowed
Talking to one of the judges who happens to be a neighbor, she said there was tremendous excitement for our home state senator Barack Obama with many Republicans and independents picking up a Democratic ballot just so they could vote for him. In a town that went 72-28% for Bush in 2004, she said that today, it was much closer to being 50-50 between the two parties.
Clearly there is a considerable amount of state pride in voting for Obama. But given what the national polls have been saying the last week or so about a surge to Obama I wonder if at least some of this support isn’t a bellweather for the rest of the country.
Obama is expected to carry his home state easily and John McCain is not expected to have any trouble against Mitt Romney. With a snowstorm moving in later this afternoon that is expected to dump a foot of snow on the already 15 inches we’ve gotten in the last few days in Chicagoland, I wonder how many people are going to be stopping on their way home from a very trying rush hour in order to vote. Polls are open until 7:00 PM.
Downstate has rain and ice mixed this morning and will also be a factor in the other statewide race people are watching; a Republican primary to choose a nominee to face off against Senator Dick Durbin in November. The bad weather should favor the candidate with the best organization and that would appear to be Dr. Steve Sauerberg. Given Durbin’s huge popularity in the state, the GOP nominee will be little better than a sacrificial lamb.
I’ll be back later with an update on turnout.
MASSACHUSETTS (Martin Solomon) — 07:23 am PST: It’s what they call a “raw” day here in eastern Massachusetts this morning — cold, rainy, gray — a day for keeping your collar up and your head down.. My car was coated in some sort of icy, slushy substance that indicated it had probably been snowing earlier. In short, it’s not a day that encourages people to leave their usual path on anyone’s
I was curious to see what stalwarts would be out holding campaign signs in the town center not far from here. It’s usually packed with people holding signs and waving on even a local election day. Today…nada. It’s raining even harder now. We’ll see how this cuts for expectations of a Clinton/Romney win.
I’ll be voting later in the day, in a town that cut pretty evenly between Bush and Kerry in the last Presidential. Listening to a local call-in show, I heard one fellow from Lowell, a city northwest of Boston, describe his trip to the polls. Busy. Jovial mood amongst the workers. First person is a registered Democrat. Jovial mood continues with friendly banter. Second person is Unenrolled (in Mass you can be
registered as “unenrolled” and ask for either an R or a D ballot on the spot) and asks for a Republican ballot. Smiles get a bit cold and turn frowny. Caller is registered Republican. They don’t even look up, just coldly hand him the ballot and send him on his way. Welcome to Massachusetts.
NEW JERSEY (Fausta Wertz) — 06:59 am PST: The polling stations in Princeton Towship were busy with the commuters voting before going to work.
I visited a couple of the schools and there were no problems with the voting machines, the lines were short, and there were no attempts at campaigning or canvassing.
At my precinct there was a short line in the elementary school gym, and the workers were actively encouraging us to tell all our friends to vote in the primary, including the independents who might want to declare. One of the workers actually said that “you don’t even need to be registered because we can give you a temporary ballot”.
In New Jersey if you are an independent you have to declare yourself either Democrat or Republican when you vote in a primary. This presents a conundrum to people in Princeton Township and Princeton Borough, where Democrats have ruled for decades: do you skip voting in the primary altogether, do you declare yourself a Democrat and vote for the most un-electable candidate, or are you one of only a few hundred registered Republicans and vote for the best Republican candidate?
I choose to remain a registered Republican, and if I want to cause a stir – and sometimes a minor scandal among some – I say I’m a conservative. That is almost always certain to raise an eyebrow or two.
There are so few conservatives in the Princetons that the Facebook group Non-Leftists of Princeton has a grand total of eight members.
And those are non-leftists, not even conservatives.
ARKANSAS (Jim Hoft) — 06:46 am PST: The entire state of Arkansas is currently under severe storm watch. This may affect turnout although they are still expecting a record numbers of voters. Hope, Arkansas native Mike Huckabee and former First Lady Hillary Clinton held leads in recent polling. Mike Huckabee returned Monday to Texarkana where he once was a Baptist minister and greeted a crowd of about 600 supporters. Chuck Norris joined Huck for the event where he continued to blast Governor Mitt Romney and not leader John McCain(?) Barack Obama sent actress Kerry Washington to rally for him this weekend. Hillary held a town hall meeting with Arkansas supporters via satellite from her new home state of New York- lovely.
MASSACHUSETTS (Jules Crittenden) — 05:56 am PST: Quick scan of news and commentary sites, Pajamas, RCP, Memeorandum, ascertains that McCain, Romney, Obama and Hillary, in 2008, are still the best America can come up with. I join Mark Steyn in despair, not really over the lack of ideological purity. I’m hardly in any position to fault anyone for that. Over the fact that this, in time of war, is the best the greatest nation on Earth has to offer. On the right, lacking clearcut ideological choices, it will come down to single-issue voting, character and electability. And even that’s not a clear picture. As for the left, well, let me just say as torturous as it is on this side, I’m grateful not to be faced with the choice between big-eyed Hello Kitty-like naivete and scaly cynicism.
Scrolling down, let’s see. Iranian terror cells still active in Iraq. I knew that. Polygamy, poor medical hygiene latest trends in Islamized UK and Free speech in Canada. Uh huh. By now most of us have settled on our issue, wadded up clump of issues, default tactic, whatever it’s going to be.
Shortly, I’ll head down to the Middle School. I’ll be voting in the gym, where the old dears will ask me to declare my party affiliation. Republican, of course. This is Massachusetts, which makes it more fun to pronounce it, though I’m not alone in this town. I’m a middle-aged American taxpayer, married man with two kids down the hall and a third in the elementary school, what affiliation do you think? It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, I might have fallen for vague promises of … hope … change. Because it sounded good and everyone else was doing it. That’s in the rearview, more than a decade past. I’m hoping now they don’t manage to change too much. I’ve been around the world and I have yet to find anything better. And as the years pass, despite the extended adolescence our society encourages, it becomes time to set aside childish things. Thank you, Bill Clinton. That helped, a lot. Thank you, Osama bin Laden. Thank you, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson. Thank you, George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice. Thanks Ronald Reagan. Thanks to some foreigners as well. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, John Howard, Winston Churchill. Thanks Mom and Dad. You were right. Pretty much about everything. Thank you entire membership of PETA and Code Pink, Al Gore, Hollywood … you’ve all tuaght me so much. Thank you, Saddam, and a big shout out to my old 3rd ID pals, Gordon, Larry and John, Ed the old Normandy vet next door, all the other combat Americans I have come to know in this brave new world in which we all now dwell. They may be all over the map politically … they are Americans after all … but there is something undefinable they have given me that in times like these will help me make my decision. Because I’m still not all the way there, and though I’m pretty sure I’ve made my decision, there will be that moment of hesitation over the ballot before I commit what little I have to give. With faith that whatever the outcome in this imperfect choice we’re faced with, the sun will rise and America will find a way.
Then, it’s off to my dental appointment.
MISSOURI (Jim Hoft) — 05:35 am PST: Severe Weather Is Forecast Across Missouri through out the day… Including: snow, rain, freezing rain, flooding, rain-snow mix and thunderstorms.
Not ideal weather for a Super Tuesday, that’s for sure. Candidate will be vying for 72 delegates (Republican) and 58 delegates (Democrat). Several of the candidates were in town this past weekend. Barack Obama held a rally at the Edward Jones Dome where as many as 20,000 people showed up on a Saturday night. Missouri freshman Senator Claire McCaskill was there and several local politicians including ultra-liberal Lacy Clay. Hillary held a rally with a local union on Sunday with a few hundred supporters- not quite comparable to the Obamarama from the night before. John McCain and Mitt Romney each held rallies this weekend with a few hundred supporters. Mitt Romney traveled the state with the popular young Republican Governor Matt Blunt and former senators Jim Talent and Rick Santorum… So far I’ve heard that people were lined up locally before the 6 o’clock hour waiting to get in to vote. There could be a huge turnout in Missouri but we will have to see how much of a factor the weather plays in turnout. If it gets really nasty that could affect things here in the Show Me State.
TENNESSEE (Bob Krumm in Nashville) –
05:18 am PST:
Glenn has already reported from West Tennessee which will be especially important to Barack Obama’s chances in the Volunteer State. Here in Middle Tennessee the picture is more muddled. Nashville, being the capitol feels greater influence from the party hierarchy which will presumably benefit Hillary Clinton. Significantly, the only member of the black legislative caucus to have endorsed her is State Senator Thelma Harper who represents downtown Nashville and the northwest third of Davidson County. What effect her endorsement has on her largely minority district remains to be seen. If Hillary wins Tennessee she’ll have Nashville and the state’s rural counties to thank for it.
The suburban ring counties, and not Nashville itself, are more important to the GOP. Williamson County is one of the nation’s fastest growing and is hugely Republican, giving Bush five out of every six votes in 2000. Rutherford County is another growing county and home to the state’s largest university, Middle Tennessee State University–which should give Obama a boost. Wilson and Sumner Counties are also increasingly important to Tennessee Republicans. The state senators from every one of these counties have lined up behind Mitt Romney, but they did so late, largely because of Fred Thompson’s recent withdrawal. Romney announced his Tennessee Leadership Team only yesterday, so it’s questionable how much effect those endorsements will have. If he does well in the ring counties he’ll hold his own in the state.
As always East Tennessee will be the determining factor to the Republican vote. From the days of the Civil War this Scots-Irish settled region has been a GOP stronghold in the midst of the Democratic South. Lately Tennessee’s 1st District has been trending more moderately Republican. That could bode well for John McCain.
What might also play a big part is an interesting local contest in Knox
County, home of Knoxville, the largest city in the eastern part of the state. A decade ago the voters passed a term limits referendum for most county offices. However, to the chagrin of voters, the incumbent office holders ignored the law and ran for additional terms. In spite of the illegality, many of them were reelected. The courts eventually ruled their elections void and so the illegally-seated county commissioners themselvesselected their replacements. That selection was also ruled to be illegal. So today there are a host of new names on the ballot for more than a dozen county offices. To say that Knox County is in an anti-incumbent mood would be an understatement. That could play havoc with projections. It could work against McCain, but then again since he is viewed as a maverick within the GOP, maybe not. Another possible beneficiary is Barack Obama who might actually draw some of that anti-incumbent crossover vote away from the Republican race.
Knox County election officials are estimating 70,000 voters today, double the turnout four years ago, on top of the record of more than one million early votes already cast statewide. That East Tennessee boost for Obama plus his anticipated landslide win in Shelby County should be enough to give him the Democratic victory. On the Republican side, John McCain will probably survive a tough challenge for a plurality of the vote. However, the statewide delegates are only winner-take-all if the winner receives a majority. That means that the fight for second will still be important. It could be either Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. It might also be Fred Thompson who is still on the ballot and was still in the race during much of early voting.
That brings up one more complicating factor in the Volunteer State. John McCain has only two names on the ballot for the twelve statewide delegates. He’ll almost certainly win more delegates than that. Who ends up fillingthose spots along with how any Thompson delegates vote could make Tennessee a player if there is a divided GOP convention.
NEW JERSEY (Fausta Wertz) — 4:55 a.m. PST: Who will get the New Jersey delegates?
The Democrats will allocate their 107 delegates among the contenders according to the proportion of the votes they receive. Barack Obama held a campaign rally in East Rutherford while Hillary Clinton sent her daughter Chelsea to Clifton and Elizabeth.
The Republican winner of the primary gets all 52 delegates. John McCain opened last week his New Jersey headquarters in Hamilton and held a rally yesterday to a full house, while Mitt Romney sent his son Craig to Newark and Belford to greet commuters.
Not surprisingly, survey results favor Obama and McCain.
However, the ballots show all candidates, as follows:
On the Democratic side: Clinton, Obama, Richardson, Biden, Edwards, Kucinihcn, and two columns for uncommitted delegates.
On the Republican side: Thomson, Giuliani, Huckabee, Romney, McCain, and Paul.
Next: What the polling stations look like in Princeton.
WEST VIRGINIA (Don Surber) — 04:26 am PST: West Virginia likely will be the first state with results today, as the state Republicans hold a convention in Charleston to pick 18 of the state’s 30 delegates. 9 will be selected in the May primary when Democrats select theirs. The remaining 3 go to party officials.
The event kicks off at 9AM Eastern with 3 of the 4 presidential candidates expected to show up: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. That’s pretty good considering how tiny the mountaintop Yeager Airport is in Charleston. How bad is it? Its namesake, Chuck Yeager, wants it replaced with something a little less harrowing.
This is a first-time event so who knows how this will play out.
Romney has the most committed people at the convention with 103 of the 1,207 delegates to the state convention. But most are uncommitted. Still with John McCain blowing it off, this may add 18 delegates to the Romney column in a winner-take-all convention.
The one twist is voters have to vote until someone gets a majority. A brokered convention is possible, which might give Romney a boost via the ABM movement – Anybody But McCain. Or they may vote all night and into the next day. West Virginia Republicans may be few in numbers but they are feisty.
I am told to expect final results around mid-afternoon.
TENNESSEE (Glenn Reynolds in Memphis) — 03:31 am PST: Will Barack Obama carry Tennessee today? If he does, it will probably depend on how Memphis goes. Memphis is the largest metropolitan area in Tennessee. It’s also the most Democratic, and has the largest black population. Obama has landed major local endorsements, including one from influential local Congressman Steve Cohen, and in an entirely unscientific survey of yard signs and a few local voters I buttonholed he seems to have the momentum. The Cohen endorsement is significant, because he might have been expected to go with Hillary just a few months ago. Here, as elsewhere, Obama has done very well with high profile endorsements in recent weeks. An Obama win in Tennessee would be significant for another reason: While Obama can’t win without doing well in Memphis/Shelby County, he can’t win without doing well elsewhere, in other parts of this rather diverse state that are less black and less heavily Democratic. If Obama can pull off a win here, he’s likely to do well in a lot of places.
The Republican race is harder to call, and is complicated by the fact that favorite-son Fred Thompson is still on the ballot, and was in fact still in the race when early voting started. A lot of enthusiastic Fredheads said they were turning out early to vote for Thompson, meaning that their votes won’t be available to other candidates. Huckabee was polling well here, but seems to have lost some momentum recently. He’s still hoping to pull off a win or a number two. John McCain’s late-breaking endorsement from the Tennessee Conservative Union won’t help Huckabee, but would have helped McCain more if it had come out while early voting was underway.
Weather may be a factor — it’s warm and delightful in Memphis at the moment, but they’re expecting severe thunderstorms later today. (Not, I hope, until after my plane leaves this morning). If those hold down turnout in Memphis, Obama will have to do even better elsewhere in the state. Stay tuned.
NEW JERSEY (Daniel Koffler) — 00:01 am PST:Barack Obama held a rally Monday morning at the Izod Center at the Meadowlands (where the New Jersey Nets play basketball). The arena, which seats some 20,000, was approximately half-filled. Obama’s scheduled warm-up acts were Steve Rothman (my hometown congressman) and Newark mayor Corey Booker, who, like Obama, is billed as a charismatic, post-racial young black politician. The inevitable homages to the Giants-Patriots game were a bit heavy-handed, although unlike most sports analogies in politics, the comparison between Hillary Clinton and an overrated dynastic juggernaut with a cheating puppet-master and an obnoxious sense of entitlement is at least somewhat apt.
The biggest names at the event were left off the marquee: former New Jersey senator and Knicks legend Bill Bradley, Caroline and Ted Kennedy (the former of whom seems to have dropped her married name for the purposes of this election), and Robert DeNiro, making his first-ever speech at a political rally. (For what it’s worth, not only is Obama picking up more celebrity endorsements than Hillary Clinton, but his are vastly more hip than hers. Kareem Abdul-Jabar is for Obama; Magic Johnson is for Hillary.)
What of the famed diversity of the Obama coalition? The short answer is, it’s very real. Standing in line near me for the metal detectors were a couple of brothers in Alpha Phi Alpha, a prominent African-American fraternity, sharing stories and exchanging photos with a white woman originally from Rock Hill, South Carolina, who was clearly old enough to have experienced life under Jim Crow. Inside the auditorium, I overheard an elderly Jewish couple, an elderly black couple, and a group of white college kids discussing Obama’s prospects for Super-Tuesday and strategizing on his behalf.
The stump speech was one I’d heard Obama give before, with some minor Jersey-specific tweaks. However, seeing him speak on television, and watching him speak in person, are different experiences. It takes some considerable effort to retain one’s cynicism through an Obama speech, and not be caught up in the moment. (Whether that feeling persists long after the speech is over is a separate question.) The latest polls show Hillary still ahead in New Jersey, but Obama closing the gap precipitously. Obama has the further advantage that Hillary Clinton has long been expected to carry New Jersey handily, so a respectable showing here could translate into a victory over expectations, in much the same way that Bill Clinton’s second place finish in New Hampshire was transformed into a win in the narrative of the campaign.
There has been a great deal of discussion and insinuation of the idea that one of the Democratic candidates is running on personal identity, and expecting solidarity votes. That may be true. My mother has received both direct-mail and robocall appeals from Hillary Clinton’s New Jersey operation. My father has not; and members of the audience I spoke with today recounted very similar experiences.