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US election blog

Nerves in New York as Democrats ask if Obama can make it

by Barbara Giudice

Article published on the 2008-10-30 Latest update 2008-10-30 11:48 TU

Keeping it covered ... Obama supporters brandish Rolling Stone magazine's coverage of their hero(Photo: Reuters)

Keeping it covered ... Obama supporters brandish Rolling Stone magazine's coverage of their hero
(Photo: Reuters)

It’s been the political wisdom in the United States for a generation that elections are decided by the swing states. You first tally up all the states that are sure to vote for the Republican candidate and those that are sure to go to the Democrat. The states that are left, where it is unsure which party will win, are where the battle is - the so-called swing states.

So, the centre of attention is not the states that are "red" (Republican) or "blue" (Democrat). There is little at stake there. They have chosen their camp, why concentrate on them? New York state is one of those states. 

I am in New York City for the election, a solidly Democratic electorate Obama doesn’t have to worry about wooing.  But the people I’ve met casually on the street, at the gym, in other places, aren’t so sure, or don’t want to say they are.

This year, despite Obama’s considerable overall lead here here, there are lingering doubts, or superstitious let’s-not-count-our-chickens-until-they-hatch murmurings, causing supporters to secretly cross their fingers behind their backs, for good luck, for good measure – or just to ward off the bogeyman. 

Outside the Bank of America on Greenwich Street, a block and a half from the Ground Zero of the 9/11 attacks, a retired woman was soliciting funds for the Democratic National Committee. It wants to send election observers (yes, like in Africa and the Philippines) to districts across the country where there could be hanky panky.

Certain Democrats in New York had said “some very ugly, horrible things about Obama”, she confided to me.

There is a lot of racism out there, I commiserated. 

“But Democrats?” she insisted.  “I could understand Republicans ….” And she trailed off. 

Notwithstanding my protestations that there were a lot of Republicans who are not racist, she said she couldn’t get over her recent campaign experience, expressing wary doubts over the outcome, even in New York.

Then there’s the lady at the gym, who finished a short conversation with me about the merits of Paris over New York.  We hadn’t been talking politics as we took our sauna, but, just as she wrapped her towel more closely around her and opened the door to step out of the steam, she looked over her shoulder and said, “And Obama had better win.”  An anxious incantation if ever there was one.

At a jazz club on the East Side on a Friday evening, I was sitting opposite a woman who "sold investment advice to the very wealthy", as she put it. 

She was on her second glass of champagne when I sat down for the first set. 

“I’ve - we’ve - had a very rough day on Wall Street,” she said.  “That’s why I came here to relax. We thought it would be worse than it was, but it wasn’t."

“There are more Obama supporters on Wall Street than a lot of people know.  He’ll save Wall Street,” she said.  “We’ll have socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.”

She downed another glass of champagne to calm her nerves. 

But it was all said with a little too much forced laughter, as if she what she wanted to say was, “What if he doesn’t make it?” 

Just before the trumpet player and saxophonist came out for the set, a gay couple, who said they had just been to an investment conference, joined  in the conversation. 

And we moved from veiled speculation about the election, where everyone chose to agree that the outcome remained uncertain, to the arcane vagaries of high finance, where everyone said things were most definitely going to go seriously downhill.