The Early Scene at Obama HQ

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8:15 a.m.: At the busy Midtown intersection of Alabama and Travis, horns honk at placard-bearers on the corners bearing slogans such as “Vote Democratic, Be the Change” – though whether in support or derision is impossible to fathom.

Inside the cozy gift shop and African-American art gallery across the street from the Breakfast Klub – Harris County headquarters of the Obama campaign since last spring - the scene is surprisingly serene, none of the frayed nerves and raw exhilaration of being in the engine room of this historic election that will doubtless come later. Operatives at laptops, still relatively fresh-faced, have enough time on their hands to shoo away an inquisitive reporter, referring him to the obligatory “press contact.” Who, naturally, is not here.

Pallets of water, which could well be left over from Ike-relief efforts, and a table of snacks sit at the ready behind a mound of empty rectangular boxes, each with a different number on the end. (Ballots? Signs? Who knows?) In the back room, five or six volunteers (black and white, old and less so) are making get-out-the-vote calls to Ohio.

“Hello, Mrs. Jones? This is Becky in Houston, Texas. Have you voted already?”

Stations are set up for a legal team – charged with extinguishing any flare-ups of voters being turned away or any other shady electoral tactics – and coordinating rides to the polls. Along one wall is a phone bank for calling Harris County Democratic voters; it’s empty save one or two early-bird volunteers.

“They won’t start calling until after 9,” says Kelly Sandill, whose husband R.K. is on the Democratic slate himself, for 127th Civil District Court Judge. How is the candidate spending this Election Day morning?

“He’s getting a massage,” Sandill says. “I told him, ‘There’s nothing else you can do… you might as well.’” – Chris Gray

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