Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We Did It

"My heart is filled with love for this country."

I've used that phrase in this blog before. That was the final sentence of President-Elect Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, the beautiful pronunciation of ideas and beliefs for a new America laid out before he announced his run for the presidency. I used it when he came through the most difficult primary season ever to become the first black major party nominee for president.

Now, Obama is only 10 weeks away from his historic inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, finally removing the "whites only" sign from the Oval Office. His decisive victory in tonight's election has implications so far reaching that I can't begin to even grasp all of them three hours after capturing the election.

The election took an irreversible turn in Obama's favor around 9:30 tonight when Ohio was called in his favor. That made the McCain path to victory even more narrow than it already had been. It would only be a matter of time before Obama's victory of improbability would be declared. It happened at 11, and after expressions of adulation my thoughts turned to this nation's long suffering black community.

I thought about how the first slave ships touched American shores in 1619. I thought about how this country was founded as a slave-holding republic, and how a compromise was rendered in our original Constitution counting every black man as three-fifths of a person. I thought about how debate over the "peculiar institution" of slavery tore America asunder over the 40 years between the Missouri Compromise and Abraham Lincoln's election. I thought about Elijah Parish Lovejoy, William Lloyd Garrison, Dred Scott, and Frederick Douglass. I thought about how a war was fought in this country over the right to enslave a race. I thought about the racially-charged stories by William Faulkner I've been reading this semester, taught to me by the great-grandson of a slave and the first black professor at my school. I thought about the idiocy of Plessy v. Ferguson and the fight for Brown v. Board of Education. I thought about Jim Crow, the Selma marches, "I have a dream," polling tests, Rosa Parks, and the Voting and Civil Rights Acts.

I thought about all the work done by the millions and millions of nameless, faceless individuals across the races who worked tirelessly through the decades to bring racial equality to a country purporting a belief "that all men are created equal."

And then, at midnight, I watched a black man with a black wife and black children speak to 100,000 onlookers in Chicago as the next man to be President of the United States. The only thought running through my mind at that point was: "My heart is filled with love for this country."

I was overcome with a feeling of community. Earlier in the night Chris Matthews mentioned a "secular communion" we have in this country when it comes to voting, how it's something we as a nation do together. When Obama was declared the victor tonight, it didn't feel like something Obama had done. It felt like something we had done. We had rejected the politics of fear and distraction for the politics of hope and progress. We had told the rest of the world that we were ready for change, turning our place and opinion in the world 180 degrees from where it was yesterday. We, as a people and a democracy, had done this amazing thing.

That might be the thing that has separated Obama from all recent presidential candidates. He wants all of us to take responsibility for what happens in our country, and he made several calls to that effect in his speech tonight, which may have been his best thus far (and that's REALLY saying something). Bush never asked us to do anything except to go shopping after 9/11. I can tell things will be different from Obama. Americans need to feel uplifted, and not embarrassed, by their leaders again. Obama is just what we need in that regard.

It's late, it's been a very emotional day, and I'll have more feelings about what has just transpired very soon. But for now, I feel so privileged to be alive in this country to see this. This is a night that will live in my heart until it stops beating. I'm so excited to see where we'll go as a nation with Obama guiding us. I'm ready to do my part. I'm ready to believe again in the power of good America possesses.

My heart is filled with love for this country. And it always will be.

Election Day Post #1: First Thoughts

The day is finally here. It's about 4:30 here and Durham and the anticipation of those first returns coming in around 7 from Virginia, Georgia and Indiana is becoming unbearable. I've been holding my breath for 14 months, and I don't want to hold it anymore.

Walking around the UNH campus today felt different than just about every other day in my four years here. The tenor was different, the attitudes were different, the conversations were different. The election seemed to be what everyone was talking about. And on every street corner there were volunteers encouraging students to get on buses to go to Oyster River High School to register and vote.

All these volunteers were from the Obama campaign. Every single one of them. Nowhere on campus did I see any volunteers from the McCain campaign doing this. Hell, I don't think I even saw any McCain volunteers all day. There's no question the enthusiasm is squarely on Obama's side, and there's also no question that enthusiasm is paramount amongst the younger generations.

They always said our generation was apathetic, that we didn't care about anything but ourselves. In many ways, the self-indulgence compounded by texting and Facebook and AIM is still significant. But what I saw today around the UNH campus was a taste of an amazing future. This is a future where we won't allow skin-deep differences to get in the way of real progress. I'm hopeful that exit-polling will show a record turnout for younger voters, and it's partly because of us that Obama is in this position.

In short, I've never been more proud of my generation that I was today walking around. We have officially arrived.

OK, I have some brief things that I will be watching as the early parts of the evening. Virginia and Indiana will have their polls close at 7. If there's an early call for Obama in Virginia, and Indiana goes down the the wire, McCain's goose will probably be cooked early. If you don't believe me, check out this post at The 538 from a couple hours ago. The know more about this stuff than I do.

I'm also very intrigued by Georgia. There's been a massive push in black voting registrations and participation that could tilt the results towards not only Obama but Jim Martin in his Senate race against incumbent Saxby Chambliss. The state has been safe Republican for much of the race but I won't rule out an outright Obama win there.

Essentially, if Obama wins both Pennsylvania and Virginia, McCain is not likely to be able to win tonight. That's the most simple thing I can come up with for you.

The most compelling race of the night could potentially be a downballot one. The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota has no favorite and no predictability. Incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken will have their vote split by an independent, Dean Barkley. We likely won't know the final result of this election until Wednesday afternoon.

With that, I will leave you to watching the returns. I hope everyone appreciates the history of this night. I will check back in if I feel it right to do so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thoughts on the Final Day

OK, I know I lied and didn't come back with a post last night. But here I am with a quick little posting before I head off to TNH for the evening. Here's my game plan for next 48 hours or so: I've got this post, then probably a post when I get back from classes tomorrow around 4, and then I'll post at times that I feel appropriate throughout the evening. I'm not sure if I'll have time to post since I figure I'll be flying around my apartment for upwards of 12 hours, watching multiple TVs, refreshing web pages, and taking and making lots of phone calls. It's going to be sick night, one that I've been waiting a long, long time for.

I've finalized my electoral map, and you can see it here. I think Obama will pull out wins in Ohio and Florida, but I've still got McCain taking Indiana, North Carolina, and the Great Plains states. He won't win NC by more that a 52-48 margain. The only state I really have no idea about is Missouri. I'm throwing it to McCain solely because Obama hasn't been able to carry any significant momentum there in recent weeks. It would not shock me a great deal if either MO or NC went Obama's way. Either way, my map doesn't give McCain much of a shot. Chris Cillizza's final map is the same as mine except that he has McCain winning Ohio and Obama taking Nebraska's 2nd Congressional Disctrict.

Indiana is definitely in play as well. Typically, the first polls to close on Election Day in the U.S. are in Indiana and Kentucky. If you're watching the networks tomorrow night and Indiana gets called for Obama around 8 p.m., it's going to be a tough night for McCain and Republicans all across the board.

Speaking of that, I'll also give you a very brief synopsis on where each of the contested Senatorial races stand heading into this final day of campaigning.

Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico: These are all going to be safe, easy wins for the Democrats tomorrow. All Mark Warner had to do was announce he was running in VA and he would win. The Udall Cousins, Mark and Tom, are also poised to glide to easy victories tomorrow.

Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon: These next three are a little tougher to gauge, but I feel confident the Democrats will win all three. Ted Stevens wrote his own epitaph by being convicted on seven felonies. John Sununu has never led in any polls against Jeanne Shaheen, and Gordon Smith doesn't have much of a chance in Blue Oregon against Jeff Merkely.

North Carolina: Kay Hagen will unseat Liddy Dole, but it should be close. Dole's horrendous decision to go after Hagen's religiosity has backfired in an unbelievable manner.

Minnesota: Flip a coin on this one. Norm Coleman has taken some hits in recent days, Al Franken looks strong, and independent Dean Barkley could split the vote either way. I'm really excited to see how this goes down tomorrow.

Georgia: Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin are locked up in a massive tete-a-tete that should come down to the wire. If neither candidate gets to 50 percent, there'll be a run-off in December to decide the winner. I have a feeling that will happen. If this is the potential 60th seat for the Democrats, and it comes down to this run-off...wow. It'll be awesome.

Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi: Likely all to stay with the incumbents. Although I'd love to see McConnell get picked off in Kentucky just to stick it to him.

With that I have to go. What a year it's been. I can't believe it's almost over.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

T-Minus Two Days

I haven't check in recently because, frankly, the end of the longest presidential election campaign ever seems to be drawing to an anti-climactic finish. Unless the pollsters have been completely dead wrong, and as long as people actually show up to vote, Barack Obama should be elected the 44th President of the United States Tuesday night. There's very little in the way of plausible scenarios for John McCain to count on. It's gotten bad enough for McCain that places like Arizona (which happens to be his home state) and Georgia are no longer safe Republican bets.

In short, McCain needs a major Obama catastrophe or an outright miracle to beat Obama in the electoral college. Since no reputable poll has had McCain ahead nationally since the 3rd week of September (and even that was from Republican-biased Zogby), there's no chance Obama loses the popular vote to McCain Tuesday. Repeat: no chance. So a narrow electoral college win or tie (that possiblity is mentioned by Nate Silver on today's polling thread over at The 538) is the only way McCain will be elected barring a game-changer between now and then. I outlined in my last post McCain's painful truths about an electoral college win. Basically, he needs to make up tremendous ground in Pennsylvania, win it, and then win EVERY swing state. No wonder Silver gives him 3.8% chance of winning the election.

Now we already have excellent Washington reporters like Mike Allen postulating the makeup of an Obama Cabinet. I'm not ready to go down that road yet, but I will certainly have a post within a few weeks of my potential Obama Dream Team. I will say this: I would love to see Rahm Emanuel in the post of Chief of Staff (for those "West Wing" buffs out there, Aaron Sorkin based Josh Lyman on a young Emanuel. That gives you some idea of the type of brilliant political mind Emanuel is). But I am preparing myself for the eventuality of an Obama win, and the unbelievable truth that this campaign is coming to an end.

I've been paying close attention to the goings-on of this campaign for the last 14 months. I've witnessed every twist and turn, heard every fact and spin, and experienced the full range of emotions all along, from tremendous joy (right after Obama won the Iowa caucus) to the depths of sadness (the death of Tim Russert). There's part of me that will be glad when it's all over, but the void left by the incredible horse race will be difficult to replace.

We have seen perhaps the greatest individual presidential campaign in history with Barack Obama's unreal rise to a potential electoral blowout Tuesday. When he sewed up the nomination, I remarked that Obama needed to run a perfect campaign to beat Hillary, and he did just that. Well, considering all the mistakes made by John McCain and his campaign of schizophrenia, Obama didn't need to run perfectly to win.

In my opinion, the election hinged on the reactions of the two candidates to the onset of the economic meltdown. In the key moment of the campaign, at the time of our nation's biggest crisis of any type since Hurricane Katrina, Obama appeared cool, composed, and presidential. McCain, on the other hand, appeared frazzled, erratic, and, quite frankly, old. That was where Obama won this thing and McCain lost it.

Anyway, I am still attempting to sort out my feelings about what has happened and what is about to happen. I will try to write something in this space later today (Sunday), Monday, and I'm still trying to figure out what I'll do here for Tuesday. I could do a running diary sort of thing, but I'm not sure I want to spend time away from watching the returns writing. I'll figure it out.

If you haven't voted yet, make sure you figure out some way to do it before or on Tuesday. It's important. I hope that you've learned at least that much from me. Later.