Optimism Among Voters in Bush Country
By Karl Vick
HOUSTON -- In the Tanglewood section of Houston, a lush subdivision where President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara live when they're not in Kennebunkport, loyal Republicans walked into polling places this morning carrying books, and minutes later carried them out, unread.
"I thought I was going to have to start it," said Sally Matthews, 52, looking down at the novel that her husband, a money manager, had given her to pass the time waiting in a line that turned out not to exist. "I was pleasantly surprised."
A pessimist might find significance in the title she chose: "What Was Lost." But there weren't many pessimists at Precinct 303 Tuesday morning. The long waits did not materialize largely because 55 percent of the precinct's 3200 registered voters had already cast their ballots in early voting, spread over 12 days. There were long lines at the morning rush, but late morning voters had leisure to reflect on an election that, finally, was in their hands.
"Hopeful," said Linda Debrovner, a retiree and community volunteer. "Brave hope, with some trepidation.
"The media," she said pointedly, "let us know what to think."
"Completely agree," said Vince Elliott, 44, a financial adviser standing tall in a starched white shirt. "I think it's going to come down to one or two states. I think the media wants us to think it's over, and if conservatives are discouraged from coming out and voting it might be."
But he didn't think it was. "If you look at Kerry polling 14 points up two days before voting, we should win this election," he said. "Bottom line is: optimistic."
Fab Wallace, 70, wore a brass belt buckle over a smart sweater, and a flinty smile.
"It was not Obama," Wallace said when asked how she voted. "John McCain and Sarah Palin," she said. The Alaska governor has a following here, judging by the color of many of the McCain/Palin lawn signs stippling Tanglewood medians: pink.
But this is Bush country first. The former president lives not 15 blocks away.
"You know there is a lot of loyalty to George Bush, both of them, because they're Texans. And we see President Bush's father with Barbara a lot, so there's a personal connection. We feel like we know them. It seems like every couple of months you see them, at the drug store, or Blockbuster, or eating out, or at church." She's Episcopalian.
And yet discontent is heard even here, in a precinct where the vote runs over 80 percent GOP.
"I think they're more protective of the father than they are of W. right now," said Janice Weiss, a poll judge and president of the Galleria Democrats. "I talk with Republicans who say, 'Oh, my God.' They actually say, 'What a disaster.' They will admit that. "
David Howell, the Republican poll judge, said Democrats are at least showing their faces in Tanglewood. Some years he cannot find a Democrat to serve as alternate judge. The party even fielded a full slate of candidates for "down-ballot" races this year, something new.
"But ultimately Obama is about youth and African Americans," Weiss said. "And we don't have minorities here."
Howell, the Republican poll judge, agreed. "Well, we don't have minorities. We do have some youth. But there's a lot of gray. It's a mature precinct."
In more ways than age. Voters emerged from the polls with a decidedly measured view, both of the day, and their role in it.
"I feel excited," said Matthews. "I'm glad I could take part in this. Have a voice."
"Doesn't look good," said Mike Halverson, a retired crude oil broker, who'd brought Patricia Cornwell's "The Front" to read while waiting, and voted McCain. "Be interesting to see once they start counting."
Washington Post editors
November 4, 2008; 12:48 PM ET
Categories: A_Blog , B_Blog , The Voters
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