Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Early Awakening

I got dog-tired beyond Macon and woke up Dean to resume. We got out of the car for air and suddenly both of us were stoned with joy to realize that in the darkness all around us was fragrant green grass and the smell of fresh manure and warm waters. "We're in the South!"
– Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

My strategy worked . . . at least for me. Rising at 5:30, I got to my local polling place (the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center) by 6:00 am, and was the fourth person in line. It wasn't unpleasant waiting in the warm November morning air as the sun arose. I got to watch the tractors head out from the barns to tend the lawns while I chatted with neighbors - about the Beltline project, the new park in our neighborhood, the planned bike trails, and so on. I saw a number of familiar faces.

The voting started in Georgia at 7:00 am, and I had cast my ballot by 7:15 - Obama, John Lewis (who was running unopposed, but deserved the vote anyway), and Senatorial challenger Jim Martin. I was surprised to see only three voting machines at my in-town precinct, and even more surprised when I later heard from my suburban co-workers that their (predominantly white) precincts has 16 to 20 machines.

I've received a lot of encouragement to keep posting the Zen series on "Self, Not Others" and I will, but it's going to have to wait at least one more night. This is going to be a historic evening, regardless of the outcome, and I can't keep myself from channel surfing from CNN to MSNBC to CBS to ABC to NBC and so on. At the Zen Center last night, I tried to express equanimity about the outcome of the election, but I don't think I was very convincing - at least, I didn't convince myself.

They just announced (8:45 pm) that Georgia went for McCain. As I said, my strategy worked for me, but in the end, this is still a Red State.

Not that Obama didn't give the Republicans a good run for their money, though. There's an interesting article about Obama's Georgia campaign over at FiveThirtyEight.com. Sean Quinn writes, "If there is one shocker on election night in the presidential race, cast your eyes to Georgia. 1,994,990 people voted early in Georgia. 3,301,875 total voted in Georgia's presidential race in 2004.

Let that sink in."

Obama's "skeleton staff" here of 53 was at least four times bigger than any other Democratic presidential effort in Georgia's history (Bill Clinton, who won the state in 1992, only had a dozen staffers). The local campaign had 33 offices and 175 separate staging locations, at least one in every one of Georgia's 159 counties, turning out roughly 550,000 new voters.

The Obama staff even had "Comfort Teams," all volunteer forces who don't campaign, but brought water, hot chocolate, and snacks to those waiting in the long voting lines. 50-60 people in metro Atlanta alone helped with the Comfort Teams.

Those voters may not have turned the state, but they did force the Republicans to spend more effort in a state they had thought was "in the bag." And despite McCain's victory here, the Democrats still might pick up a Senate seat, replacing incumbent Saxby Chambliss with Democrat Jim Martin.

And in a few hours, we should know who will be the next President of the United States of America.


UPDATE II: (11/5/08, 6:$5 pm) It looks like the Martin-Chambliss contest for Georgia's Senate seat is heading for a runoff. Last night, race-baiting, handicapped-bashing Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss held a pretty convincing 55% or so lead, but then the late results started rolling in from Democratic precincts in the metro Atlanta area. Now, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, Chambliss has 1,841,449 votes, or 49.9 percent of the total, while Martin has 1,727,625 votes, or 47 percent. Georgia law requires a majority for election, so it looks like they're heading toward a December 2 run-off. Oh, fun.

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