Monday, September 04, 2006

Blue Milford

Anecdotal evidence about the country's turn against Bush and Republican control of Congress is as scary as it is tempting. In the run-up to the 2004 elections, after all, if you read left-wing blogs, you heard a lot of these stories about someone's father who'd voted for Bush in 2000 and hated him now, with the implication that that meant the country as a whole was ready to have the guy out.

Well, we know how that turned out.

This year, I've heard (read) more of that, and this time, polls are supporting the anecdotes much more clearly. But, having touched a hot surface and gotten burned two years ago, I remain nervous about touching it again even though this time the "caution: hot surface" light of polling is off.

In light of what I saw today, though, I'm reaching out to touch, because I kind of believe there may be a Democratic tidal wave coming.

Today I went to Milford for the parade there, where Paul Hodes and just about everyone else was marching. Well, ok, Paul himself was not allowed to march, since the parade organizers have some weird thing against politicians talking to and shaking hands with people (fear of politician cooties? seems an odd fear in NH of all places), so he rode on the float. But you get the picture. Charlie Bass was apparently even there, though I didn't see him. Governor Lynch was there. I'm not sure if gubernatorial candidate Jim Coburn was there himself, but he definitely had a float, plus a ginormous RV or bus with his picture on it - quite a campaign investment for a guy running against one of the most popular governors in the country. Senator Joe Biden was there. It was definitely The Place To Be, even if the opportunities for interaction with voters were sadly (and, some might say, bizarrely) limited.

The number of lawn signs for candidates was a useless measure of popularity, since the Lynch and Coburn campaigns in particular had clearly been engaged in turf wars, with some stretches of road lined by signs for one or the other candidate every two feet. In at least one spot, they seemed to be trying to outflank each other - the signs went Lynch-Coburn-Lynch-Coburn, so close together that you couldn't read any individual sign for a block. Whoever had the end sign in either direction got the visibility, and other than that it was a blur.

Because it was against the rules, nobody associated with the campaigns handed out stickers as their own float went by, but most of the campaigns had people working the crowds separately, doing so. Some little kids clearly cared much more for stickers than for partisanship, and were sporting both Coburn and Lynch stickers. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had a Lynch sticker. I think I saw about 10 adults out of hundreds of people who had Coburn stickers.

As we started the parade route, almost no one was wearing a Hodes sticker. It was sort of dispiriting, although since many people waved or clapped at us in particular, it also didn't feel like a rejection. But it turned out that the people handing out the stickers had just hit that end of the route before crowds gathered, and that as we got closer to the center of town, there were not only way more people, way more of them were wearing Hodes stickers. I don't know if Bass's campaign was the only one not on top of it enough to hand out stickers, or what, but I didn't see any of his.

Looking around at all the stickers people were wearing, one of the other volunteers in the Hodes contingent said "this sure is a blue town." And today, it was.

But in 2004, Milford voted for George W. Bush and Craig Benson. John Kerry and John Lynch won New Hampshire as a whole, and the second district in particular, but Bush carried Milford 3,757-3,516 and Benson got it 3,877-3361. Those are close votes, but they are Republican wins. The sticker vote today was not close, and it was a Democratic win.

As I began by saying, I have serious hesitations about attributing meaning to this sort of thing. But, as I also said, it's tempting...and this isn't a story about one person turning against Bush, it's about a town crowded with people embracing Democratic candidates, at least enough to wear their stickers.

Feels pretty good.

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