Posts from America (4) - Judgement day

imgp0340We’ve been on the streets of the voting precincts of Centennial Hills in NW Vegas since 6am. It’s an area, like all of Vegas, which is carved out of the dessert. To me it feels a bit like human beings will only be here temporarily. I write this because, coming from a temperate climate where we’re used to lots of water, lots of trees and a fair amount of wildlife I just can’t fathom how humans could live here long term – it’s so very barren. However it is very beautiful and the sun rise this morning lit the hills of the Las Vegas valley a beautiful burned red – a great contrast to the neon of the city.

Our first job was to hang ‘don’t forget to vote’ notices of the front doors of those we hope will vote Democrat. We did our best to avoid waking the excitable dogs that many people here have. In most cases we failed, so as we walked away from each street we left choruses of dogs and no doubt pretty annoyed people. Hopefully they’ll not be taking their anger out in the polling booth.

At 9am all the door hangers were all out and so we then went out to talk to people. This is an area which has suffered greatly from the sub-prime crisis and credit crunch. One in five houses here has been repossessed and it shows as you walk around the streets. People are feeling the impact of this recession and it is clear why they are so nervous.

Unlike in Europe, most people in the US register as being Democrat, Republican or Independent when they register to vote. This means that from the start of the campaign each party has a fair idea of where it’s support will come from. The challenges for each party are to ensure that it’s natural supporters get out to vote and to convince as many independents as possible to opt for its candidate. Each time we leave the campaign HQ to walk a precinct, we’re given a pack of sheets which contain information about the people we’ll be knocking on the doors of. Many on our sheets have the names of registered Republicans and independents who have said at some point over the last few weeks that they’ll be supporting Obama. This is obviously good news. However, I did meet a man this morning who, as a registered Democrat, decided to vote McCain because he didn’t like what Obama had said about redistribution.

The TV coverage has been interesting. Because Nevada is in the west of the country, it’s three hours behind the states on the East Coast. The pundits are keeping a keen eye on the big swing states in the east like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. The results of these are coming in thick and fast. There are pretty clear, early results and it looks like Nevada’s 5 electoral college votes won’t make much of a difference to the overall result. This has not dampened our spirits though and we are determined that our efforts will deliver the state for Obama. The networks are wary of calling the result too early. In 2004 a few called the election for Kerry, only to have to eat humble pie later in the night as it became clear that Bush had actually won. The competition to be the first to declare the election has been complicated by the huge number of websites which are now part of the race with the mainstream news networks.

Polls have just closed – 7pm Pacific Coast Time. We’re covered all the doors on our sheets and just returned to HQ. Everyone here is gathered around the tv watching what is happening in the east. It looks good and the mood is getting more and more frenzied. We’re hoping the party down on Las Vegas’s famous Strip in the Rio Hotel will be one to remember. Democrats, who have been campaigning all over the city, will be there to await the official result.

I can only imagine what is going through Barack Obama’s head now. What a moment. History in the making. Brilliant!