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Signs of Huge Missouri Turnout on Both Sides,
12:53 p.m. E.T.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, co-chair of the Obama campaign, was reached by phone on her way to cast her vote in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb. She said she had been on the phone all morning collecting reports of huge turnout in Democratic and Republican precincts alike. Reports of the heaviest voting, she said, came from urban areas, and "that's great news for me."
In Missouri, Obama's path to victory hinges on his ability to boost his margins in the urban centers to 10% above levels in recent presidential election years, McCaskill said, while holding Republican margins to traditional levels outside the cities.
"I feel pretty comfortable with saying we're going to have one for the record books," McCaskill said. She reported a conversation with staff at one St. Louis-area precinct where 650 people voted in the first hour. "And that's jaw-dropping," she said.
It's a hard state for Obama to win, she added. But he has the enthusiasm factor on his side. "You don't have the sense that people are rushing out to vote for John McCain. It's more of an anti-Obama vote than a pro-McCain vote."
Regardless of their reasons, Republicans are also pouring into the polls in Missouri. GOP leaders reported heavy turnouts and said their carefully targeted late efforts were inspiring likely McCain voters. While Obama blanketed Missouri, they said, McCain employed a laser.
"We got outspent, but basically Obama just flew over the state of Missouri and dropped flyers on the ground," said Tina Hervey, spokeswoman for the state Republican party. Even the staff at GOP headquarters received get-out-the-vote calls from Obama. "But he's not going to get me," Hervey said. By Karen Ball / Kansas City
The Sun Comes Out for Obama?
12:45 p.m. E.T.
Most of the country is experiencing unseasonably warm, dry weather today, which should boost turnout for Obama. (Studies have shown that Democrats are less likely to vote in bad weather; it is rainy and cool in Philadelphia but the turnout seems to be big.) Of the 10 battleground states, the only two with serious weather are Virginia and North Carolina, per AccuWeather.com meteorologists. A coastal storm is moving up the mid-Atlantic and could stifle turnout in some areas particularly from North Carolina to the Tidewater area of Virginia. By Amanda Ripley / Washington
Voting Machines Malfunction in Virginia,
12:30 p.m. E.T.
State election officials are working feverishly to repair electronic voting machines that malfunctioned in areas around Richmond, Virginia Beach and areas of northern Virginia earlier today, according to campaign and state officials. Election officials have temporarily moved to paper ballots to these areas. In addition, some of the ballots in Virginia Beach were damaged by rainfall while they were being brought inside. By Kris Osborn / Alexandria
Considering Race in Missouri,
12:30 p.m. E.T.
Along The Paseo, Kansas City's storied urban corridor, a 62-year-old man with a bent back made his way down the sidewalk with the help of a walnut cane. He was carrying a heavy metal folding chair, which had helped him through his two-hour wait to vote at St. James United Methodist Church, one of the city's largest "Freedom Ward" polling places. He wore a kufi of African mudcloth design and a watch chain dangled from his trouser pocket. He had a hike of a mile and a half still ahead of him. "People walk further than that to vote in other countries Americans are too soft," said Harry E. Brown. On the other hand, "the only reason I'd walk this far," he added, was for Barack Obama. "It's not because of the color of his skin it's because of the change he will bring to America and bailing us out of this mess."
Brown said he lived in Jackson, Miss., in the 1950s and '60s. ""So I know what prejudice is. I rode in buses when the blacks had to stand in the back. I drank at water fountains that said 'Coloreds.' You couldn't eat at the restaurants. You had to get your meals in a brown paper sack at the back door." An African-American in the White House "is long overdue," Brown said, "and I just pray that America is willing to accept it and not eliminate it."
But other black voters here found the theme of racial milestones too simplistic. At the church, where a long line wrapped around the large building, a white reporter was met with exasperated murmurs when she asked how it felt finally to have an African-American on the ballot. "He's bi-racial. I don't know why you all keep saying that. He's for all the people, and all the eyes of the world are on us today," said Sharon Weathers, 40, an unemployed mental health worker.
Eventually, Brown's wife drove up the avenue after completing her morning mission: delivering wheelchairs to precincts where exhausted and disabled voters might need them. Brown loaded his chair into the car and climbed aboard. His journey was, in the end, faster than he had expected. By Karen Ball / Kansas City
A Democratic Advantage in Florida's I-4 Corridor?
12:40 p.m. E.T.
In electoral-vote rich Florida, ground zero is the unpredictable Interstate-4 corridor which stretches across the state's mid-section from Daytona Beach on the east coast through Walt Disney World to Tampa Bay in the west. Along this swath, Tampa Bay is known as the state's bellwether: since 1980, as Tampa Bay votes, so has the state, according to political analyst Susan MacManus, distinguished professor at University of South Florida.
Final polls showed Obama and McCain tied in Tampa Bay at 46-46 coming into today's election. The more Republican-leaning eastern end of the corridor gives McCain a slight edge.
But signs of Democratic momentum in the Sunshine State's mid-section are appearing. In Orange County, home of Orlando, 40,000 more Democrats were registered since 2004, while Republican registration remained flat, giving Democrats a 67,000-voter edge, according to political analyst Aubrey Jewett of the University of Central Florida.
And in two high-profile Orlando-area congressional races, longtime Republican incumbents are experiencing meltdowns. Seeking a fourth term representing the 24th congressional district, Republican Tom Feeney, tainted by his 2003 golf trip to Scotland paid by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, placed 6th on Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call's top ten list of most endangered congressional incumbents. And 8th district representative, Republican Ric Keller, seeking a 5th term, is 11-points behind wealthy lawyer Alan Grayson, according to a recent Democratic poll. By Barbara Liston/Orlando