Swing State Dispatches

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Virginia :The winds of change are blowing in Virginia. Even in my nearly all-white, heavily Republican neighborhood just outside Richmond, Obama yard signs and bumper stickers have appeared. Going into Election Day, Obama is up 50 percent to 44 percent in Pollster.com's most recent compilation and is drawing enormous, enthusiastic crowds not only in Richmond, but in such previously hostile to Democratic territory as the Shenandoah Valley. Obama will end his campaign today with a rally in Manassas, Va. Black people are beside themselves—glowing with confidence one minute then shifting to uneasy predictions that somehow "they" are going to snatch away Obama's victory.


I don't think they need to worry. Unless a huge asteroid strikes, wiping out the population before the votes are counted, Obama is going to win Virginia handily, and with it, the presidency.

That's not only because he is running on the same ballot as former Gov. Mark Warner, who is tromping his opponent for a vacant U.S. Senate seat by more than 30 points in the latest polls. Or even because of the juggernaut of a ground operation his campaign has put in place, opening offices in more than 100 cities and towns across the state to mount a massive get-out-the-vote campaign.

Such factors are important, but the main reason for Obama's strong position is that the Old Dominion has changed. A massive influx of young, Democratic-leaning newcomers to the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington has wrested political dominance away from the archconservative patricians and rural rednecks who formerly controlled the state. Virginia is no longer recognizable as the state that permitted many counties to close their public schools rather than allow black kids and white kids to go to class together back in the 1950s. As I said, the winds of change are blowing in Virginia, and Obama's triumph tomorrow will make them stronger still.

—by Jack White

Pennsylvania : Over the last week, John McCain has refused to give up his fight for Pennsylvania. Faced with discouraging polling numbers and dwindling funds, the Arizona senator continues to insist that his chances in Pennsylvania are growing stronger. Yesterday, he took things a step further and guaranteed victory.

To be sure, McCain's optimism is well placed. With losses in traditional red states like Virginia appearing increasingly likely, McCain's only chance to win the White House is to snatch Pennsylvania (or Ohio) in a late-inning miracle. As such, it makes sense for him to project confidence and hope in the Keystone State.

But McCain's chances in Pennsylvania are slim to none. In addition to the latest polls, which show Obama with a comfortable seven-point lead, McCain's team continues to be outmaneuvered on the ground. Urban centers like Philadelphia, Chester and Pittsburgh are being swarmed with Obama workers in order to ensure that historically disenfranchised voters (read: poor black people) follow through on their promises for tomorrow.


Also, despite Hillary Clinton's earlier declarations to the contrary, white working-class voters seem to have finally decided on the Obama-Biden ticket. To be sure, this is linked to several factors, such as Biden's Scranton roots, Hillary's admirable efforts on the campaign trail and the nation's current economic crisis. Nevertheless, Obama is poised to win Pennsylvania by a handy margin and, barring something extraordinary, become our next president.

—by Marc Lamont Hill

North Carolina :In the last week before Election Day, Hank Williams Jr. has campaigned in North Carolina for the McCain-Palin ticket, and Ashley Judd has been here stumping for Obama and Biden. Just down the ballot, Republican incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole has attacked Democratic challenger State Sen. Kay Hagan as "godless," and Hagan has fired right back at Dole for "bearing false witness." The Tar Heel State hasn't seen this kind of election action in years.


North Carolina is more down to Earth than Virginia, its neighbor to the north, and more affluent than its southern neighbor, South Carolina. It's simultaneously the home of legendary right-wing Sen. Jesse Helms, but also representative of the new, prosperous South, with Charlotte, the home of Bank of America, and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle, home to high-tech and pharmaceutical giants. Its 15 electoral votes make North Carolina the second largest southern state after Florida.

If the Tar Heel State goes for Barack Obama this year, it would be the first time that the state has chosen a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976. But even if the vote count for Obama falls short, the fact that the normally solid red state, with numerous military bases and conservative religious roots is even in play this late in the game demonstrates that unlike the rest of the "solid South," North Carolina is a state that is looking forward, and it is representative of the change in demographics, allegiances and politics that has been seen on a national scale during this election cycle.


—by David Swerdlick

Ohio : Once again—remember 2000 and 2004—it may come down to Ohio, or it may not.


The Buckeye State has been a close-call red state in recent national elections. But this year, it could go blue. That's what the polls have said for some time.

At the end of a long campaign, the pressure of losing an erstwhile reliable state seems to be a gut-wrenching experience for an increasingly desperate John McCain.


An example: McCain came to Defiance, Ohio, a small-town about an hour southwest of Toledo, and called out for Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (aka the authentic Joe the Plumber) to come on stage to be cheered by the crowd.

But nobody had arranged for Wurzelbacher to be there. He was at home, watching the speech on television. An obviously embarrassed McCain sputtered, then told everyone in the audience to take a bow. "You're all Joe the Plumber," he shouted, and the supportive crowd roared.


The cheers of bitter-end supporters might have sounded like music in the ears of the campaign. But it didn't drown out the background death dirge. Even the Republican team wins Ohio and its 20 Electoral College votes, the math doesn't add up to a McCain-Palin administration. By the time Ohio polls close, voters in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina may well have closed the deal on the White House.

Ohio still garners campaign visits and media attention, but this time around it falls short of being the crucial vote to pick the next president.


—by Sam Fulwood III

Florida: I never thought a string of vehicles rolling down the street could be so sexy. That is until I witnessed Sen. Barack Obama's motorcade entering Osceola Heritage Park outside Orlando for his 11 p.m. rally with President Bill Clinton on Oct. 29.


Motorcycle cops—maybe a dozen—whisked into the venue, followed by a train of sleek, black unmarked police cars with the I-didn't-know-that-was-the-po-po-behind-me inside lights, followed by a handful of assorted vehicles, then three SUVs, with two or three more cruisers bringing up the rear.

Surely all presidential candidates are escorted in such a manner, but when Obama is in the element, so is a necessary degree of swagger. It conjures up the scene in Coming to America when King Jaffe Joffer rolls up in New York with his entourage while trumpets and drums jam out a memorable score by Nile Rodgers—"King's Motorcade." It is an orchestral arrangement that exudes authority, confidence, power. Not to mention the African drumbeats. Oh yeah, this is all you, Barack.


—by Faith Maginley