Park Slope, 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Two hundred and forty-eight voters—plus children and at least seven baby stollers—were waiting in a U-shaped line, stretching from the Fourth Street entrance to P.S. 51, continuing down the entire block of Fifth Avenue, to a spot halfway around Fifth Street, a little before 8 a.m. in Park Slope.
It’s a neighborhood that eats, drinks and breathes “hope” and “change,” from the Obama cookies at Trois Pommes to the temporary Obama phone bank inside the Brooklyn Lyceum. Thus, all the Obama buttons, T-shirts and other paraphernalia along the lengthy line—and only one guy in a McCain cap. (He conservatively declined comment.)
Across the street, the usually daunting line stretching out the door of Bagel World seemed quite reasonable by comparison.
“I was so touched when I saw the line—it made me feel good about my neighbors,” said nearby resident Christy Newman, the charming wife of A. C. Newman, frontman for the popular rock group New Pornographers.
“There were helicopters filming the lines in Park Slope for NY1,” Ms. Newman noted.
The couple had just returned to Brooklyn from a tour overseas. “New Zealand, Australia—everybody’s like, ‘Please tell me you’re voting for Obama,’” Ms. Newman said. “It’s worldwide news.”
Greenwich Village, 9 a.m.
“This is fucking nuts,” said Kaylan Keane, 36, summing up the sentiments of everyone in the stretched-as-far-as-the-eye-could-see line that snaked its way around the block of the alternative high school City as a School on Clarkson Street in the West Village. Ms. Keane, who works at EMI, had her 2-and-a-half-month-old son, Tor, strapped around her torso and she shifted her weight back and forth as she inched (slowly) forward. “He’s an Obama supporter, of course,” she said, rubbing Tor’s back. Tor blinked a few times in response. “I’ve been voting here for over 10 years,” she said. “And it’s never ever had a line past the [school’s] steps.”
The liner-uppers carried coffee from the local favorite, Grey Dog Café, while others had newspapers, books and iPods to pass the time. A NY1 camera crew filmed the crowd while a producer asked if anyone wanted to talk about being “pissed at the length of the line.” There were no takers. “It’s worth it,” said one longtime West Village resident, while a few of the people around her nodded.
“That was actually really exciting,” said Biz Zast, 27, a tall and model-esque beauty who works at Henri Bendel, as she skipped out the door. Ms. Zast hails from Illinois and said that she felt “a little emotional” when she pulled the lever for Obama. “I don’t mind at all that I waited for so long.”
Washington Square, 11 a.m.
“What I’ve discovered is that if people haven’t voted in four years, their names have been released from the book,” said Carla D. Packer, the 60-something site coordinator at the polling place at Hayden Hall, the New York University dorm on Washington Square Park.
“Sam Shepard was here with Jessica Lange and he apparently just re-registered. He got his notice to register to vote here, but his name wasn’t in the book, and when I went out to speak with him, I discovered he hadn’t voted in four years. And one year ago, I had the same problem with [Ms. Lange], and I had to give her a provisional ballot.”
Ms. Packer also said that former Mayor Ed Koch and MSNBC legal analyst Dan Abrams usually vote at her polling place toward the end of the day, along with “a couple people from soaps who I don’t know.”
Austin Scarlett, the Project Runway season one contestant who now designs bridal wear, was voting at Hayden. He was instantly recognizable, and perfectly put together, in navy pinstriped pants, brown shoes, gray suit jacket, blue patterned ascot, brown bowler hat and vintage brown glasses.
“I love Michelle Obama’s style,” Mr. Scarlett said. “She’s definitely, I think, closely modeling herself on Jackie O, which I think works for her. Cindy McCain sort of has this evil queen beauty about her that is intriguing. She’s always composed and she’s definitely a well-dressed and chic lady.”
Does vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have style? “No, the hair is just bad,” said Mr. Scarlett. “Even with the hundreds of thousands of dollars she’s spending, she’s still just a little on the frumpy side. And, you know, when you’re going for an international role that you’re gonna fill, you really need to sort of dress the part of a world-class leader and she’s not that.”
And what about Mr. Obama? “Well, Barack, he’s so handsome,” said Mr. Scarlett. “I’d like to see him in something in a little more fitted, a little more streamlined, while still keeping the classic, conservative look that you have to do.”
On Mr. McCain, Mr. Scarlett was emphatic: “I would just keep him in his uniform!”
Union Square, Noon
The Rub DJs, along with DJ Rekha and Chez Music’s Neil Aline, were starting an afternoon DJ party at the Raise the Volume Election Day Party at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square around 1 p.m. On the decks: “Elected,” by Alice Cooper; “I Believe” by Simian Mobile Disco; “Funky President” by James Brown; “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” by the Smiths; George Clinton’s “Paint the White House Black” and more. Start your own playlist!
Governor David Paterson walked into the voting booth with his wife, Michelle, today, but said afterward, “I pulled the lever myself.”
Paterson did not use a Braille ballot when voting for Barack Obama. (He doesn’t read Braille.) Mr. Paterson conducted a walking press conference with reporters while on line to vote at the same Harlem elementary school where Representative Charlie Rangel voted hours earlier.
“I’ve never seen so many people stand on line for so long and be so excited,” Mr. Paterson said. “I’ve never seen so many people look so happy, even though they have to wait over an hour to vote.” He said the “struggles” of African-Americans, women, Hispanics, the disabled, elderly and others “may all be congealed in this sort of symbolic moment. But symbolic moments have often been the catalyst for great change in this country.”
When asked by a radio reporter about the Bradley effect possibly sinking Mr. Obama today, Mr. Paterson said, “There have been so many times in this neighborhood when we thought we’d be treated like everybody else, and it turned out that we didn’t. It’s so many times that we pay taxes, we fought hard overseas for this country, and went back and found that prisoners of war from other countries were treated better than us.” Mr. Paterson added, “I can understand that skepticism, that superstition.”
Midtown, 2:30 p.m.
It was Tuesday afternoon around 2:30, and Chris Matthews had been up since early in the morning, working the phones, jotting down notes, marveling at American democracy and the turnout in North Carolina, thinking about Roosevelt, and Truman, and J.F.K. In a few short hours, he would be on the air at MSNBC, guiding viewers through the returns.
Already, his mind was racing.
“If Obama wins it will be a time when the world once again looks at us with wonder,” Mr. Matthews told The Observer.
“The great thing about America is that people have always looked at this country and said, how do they do it?” said Mr. Matthews. “How do they win at everything? How do they invent everything? Why is America where all the modern drugs are created, where all the modern technology comes from? What is it about the American reality that is so, almost, miraculously novel? I think if Barack wins that will be the message. People will once again look at us with wonder.”
And if McCain wins?
“If McCain pulls it out, I think it’s a testament to his grit,” said Mr. Matthews. “And because the country wasn’t ready for too big of a change and resisted what looked to be too big a leap.
“But my feeling is that this country has almost always in times of crisis made the leap,” Mr. Matthews continued. “That’s why people came to this country. You know why? Because they couldn’t live with the way things were. We are the children of the people who came to this country because they wouldn’t put up with mediocrity.”
The question, said Mr. Matthews, is whether Americans will get behind the guy once he’s in office, the way they got behind him on the campaign trail. “Having given him the ball, are they going to let him shoot?” said Mr. Matthews. “Are they going to let him take the outside shot? Are they going to root for him? Are they going to rally to him? Or are they going to stand back and say, ‘Let’s see if he can do it?’
“I think it’s very important not to do one of these scorched earth things on the other side where Bill Kristol writes a column every week trying to bring down the government like he did with the Clintons,” said Mr. Matthews. “I think that’s rotten. I think this guy deserves a shot. Bush got his shot. The country rallied behind him and gave him his tax cut and supported him through 9/11 and this war.
“I think this guy ought to get his shot.”