Election watching is my sick obsession
It’s 9 a.m. on Thursday and I’m staring down the respective representatives of the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, the Koury Corp., the Greensboro Housing Coalition and the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress in the conference room of the Greater Greensboro Builders Association.
Frustrated and angry voices cascade around the room. If the players can reach a consensus, a revised ordinance for rental housing inspections makes its way to the Greensboro City Council, and so long as none of the negotiators speaks in opposition, the rewrite likely sails through.
I’m feeling violently ill.
First, a little back story: The previous evening I posted a breaking news story about incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole raising arguably baseless concerns about voter fraud by college students during early voting (as of this writing, it’s received zero play), and blogger Ed Cone has thrust our newspaper into the spotlight with a post about our decision to not endorse in the presidential election. Somewhat heady stuff. Election Day is five days out, and we’ve had this little burst of excitement.
It’s not likely we’re going to get another break (not counting a staffer’s wedding on Friday), so Editor Brian Clarey and I are figuring it’s time for a drink. Besides, our friends Sam Frazier (quite possibly the best guitarist in the Triad) and Lisa Dames (most definitely the hardest working woman in show business in our corner of the world) are performing at the Blind Tiger. It’s good to remember that life creaks along on a human level in our city, even as a crushing load of polling data predicts what role North Carolina will play in this national election, the two major political parties dig in their heels to do battle in the event of a close and contested race.
So, it’s fair to say that I overdid it at the bar, but I didn’t break any personal records. By the time I got to bed at about 1:30 a.m. I had evidently picked up a nasty strain of the flu. When I woke up, I was feeling a little unsteady, but I thought it was just a hangover. It was while I was driving to the meeting that the nausea began to rise.
During my second trip to the men’s room at the Greater Greensboro Builders Association I throw up the acidic contents of the previous evening’s dinner, which burn my throat and leave a gritty residue on my teeth. Wiping off my mouth in front of the mirror, I’m hoping no one in the conference room notices how the color has drained from my face and my eyes have reddened with tears. (In retrospect, I recognize it was inconsiderate to put those people at risk of catching my virus.) When the meeting adjourns at 10:45 a.m. I’m thinking I have never felt such great relief in my life.
I manage to slip out without speaking to a soul, and drive a block before pulling my car into a parking lot and lurching into the grass at an office park to do another purge. By the time I’m home, I’m shivering and undressing as quickly as possible to get into bed. Three hours later, my sweet woman stops in and fixes me some chicken soup between her morning volunteer stint and second shift at the hospital. After another two hours of recreational reading I’m feeling much better.
I’m just religious enough to believe there was some divine hand behind my daylong bout. God doesn’t like the way I’ve been violating the command to observe the Sabbath. She’s none to pleased at my pride as a strutting investigative reporter probing voting irregularities and as a sanctimonious journalist arbitrating electoral contests through candidate forums and endorsements.
This is not only my body but also my lord and savior saying, “Cool it.”
And yet I’m a pathetic backslider. At the first sign of returning health, I’m racing through the blogs, catching up on national news that ordinarily escapes my attention in my siloed reporting existence, and even leaving the house to pick up a copy of the competing weekly.
This is it, right? The last chance to catch our collective breath before the national election slams down on our newly minted battleground state with the full brunt of its fury. I’m studying the electoral map at www.nytimes.com. As of Thursday night, the Times gives Obama 286 electoral votes, 16 above the 270 he needs to win the race. North Carolina is, obviously, among the six states in the toss-up category.
The way I figure it, to win, McCain needs to take back two big states in the “leaning Obama” column — Pennsylvania and Virginia — to become competitive. That leaves Obama 18 electoral votes to make up, meaning he has to carry Florida, Ohio or some combination of smaller battleground states. The other scenario has McCain carrying Pennsylvania, in which case he has to also take every single battleground state to cobble together 273 electoral votes. That means the election could be decided not only by Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, but also Nevada, Missouri and Indiana.
So we dodge the bullet in North Carolina, right? I’m not betting on it.
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