Read dispatches from the campaign trail from Al Jazeera correspondents in states across the United States.
Make no mistake, the people of Ohio know we are watching. They are proud of the political clout their Midwestern state holds and fully embrace the fact that they could be the presidential kingmaker in this election.
We travelled to several cities in the industrial northeastern part of the state over the few days leading up to election. Manufacturing is critical to the economy here. And the auto industry bailout by President Obama seem to solidify Democrats who are voting for him, but we did not come across many Republicans who switched sides because of the bailout.
There are a few auto plants in Ohio, but most of the connection to the industry is its role as parts pipeline. Hundreds supply the big three American automakers; Ford, GM and Chrysler.
We spent the first half of election day at Steere Industries just outside Akron. The factory was able to stay open thanks to the bailout. It employs 300 people – most of them operate huge machines that mold plastic parts for cars.
The owner though does not support President Obama, he voted for Romney. He’s concerned about the economic future under his leadership, despite the bailout keeping his doors open. But the four workers we spoke with, all voted for Obama and did so because of the bailout.
It’s that kind of division even within the same industry that keeps Ohio front and centre during presidential elections. No wonder they have a 48-year record of siding with the victor.
They’re smart at Northeastern University in Boston. Really smart.
It’s a private university with about 20,000 students. It’s known for its five-year jobs course, which focuses on placing people into their industry, such as engineering and business.
Al Jazeera is at an election watch party on their campus and we’re surrounded by some pretty savvy students.
About 200 of them are at the coffee lounge, watching the results come in. They’re very aware of the Republican and Democratic campaigns, their messages and their promises.
For some, their ballot in the 2012 election is the first they’ve cast; they were too young to vote in 2008.
Most are Democrats – Massachusetts is a blue state after all – and believe Barack Obama deserves another four years in the White House. A few students we spoke to said they haven’t given up on the president’s “hope and change” theme.
But they’re worried about the state of the economy and whether there’ll be jobs for them when they graduate. And they’ll probably have a mountain of debt on their shoulders too.
Students are the future workforce and generation of the United States. It’s reassuring to see them so engaged in the political process and revelling in their democratic right to vote.
I’ve spent the last week crossing central Florida along what pundits call the “highway to political heaven”. The Interstate 4 highway in political terms is an important stretch of tarmac, it passes through every kind of community and I’ve met every kind of voter. It’s the battleground within the battleground state and a revealing glimpse into the heart of the North American voter. Of course I’ve met plenty of voters who are convinced their candidate is the right man for the job but most striking has been those independent or swing voters who left it to the last minute to make a decision.
For many, like Jim Meeks of Plant City Florida, it was an agonising choice. As a businessman Jim likes what Governor Romney has to say about the economy but he also likes President Obama’s stance on immigration and women’s rights. “I’d hate to be the guy that gets to choose the next president,” Jim told me all too aware that his vote is an important one in such a close run race.
My colleagues and I have been up and down the interstate 25 corridor for the past several days – south to Colorado Springs, north to Boulder and then to Ft. Collins, and east to Aurora. Given what happened to this network four years ago, we were a tiny bit worried about the welcome we would get on Election Day in Golden.
Rewind: in 2008, as today, we broadcast from the Buffalo Rose, a rootsy bar, restaurant, and concert venue on Washington Avenue. The owner, Murray, rolled out the red carpet for us, and we love him for it. However, a few people who were quite vocally opposed to this channel decided to protest outside during our broadcasts. They carried signs calling Al Jazeera “terrorists,” the crew UN-American, and much worse. The protests garnered international news coverage – and that wasn’t exactly good news for us.
Now, return to 2012. We have been here since early afternoon, and all we have received from the residents and workers of Golden is a hearty “howdy!” They want to know what we have heard about the voting around the state, what the candidates are up to, and whether the election is too close to call. Best of all, people have been willing and eager to talk with us and with the world about their concerns and hopes in this election. As a journalist, that makes me really happy – because I just want to share people’s stories!
The freezing cold weather in the key swing state of Virginia has failed to dampen voters’ spirits.
At Richmond’s Dominion Place, precinct officials said voting was “steady and strong,” and as a result “heavy turnout is leading to long lines at polling places across the state.”
Voters began lining up at the precinct on Grace Street and other areas as early as 6:30am.
Obama supporter Dominik Kaar, an 18-year-old student at Virginia Commonwealth University, said she believes the president “deserves a second chance at making this country right.”
Alicia Hutton, who voted with two children, ages 8 months to 10 years, clustered around her outside the precinct, said her pro-life position was why she voted for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. “I believe in what he believes in,” she said.
Van Lynch, 54, who voted in a different precinct, said the lines “were terrible.”
“It was a two hour wait, that was at 6:30 this morning, and they only had three voting machines. Apparently some of the other places I’ve talked to have more voting machines, I’m not sure if this was voter suppression or just oversight on the people who set it up.”
“Usually in Virginia they are pretty good about elections, although they do need early voting, that would make it much easier for people,” he said.
In a race that is too close to call, Virginia is the one to watch. The state has 13 electoral votes and is considered a toss-up in the US presidential race. According In the latest poll numbers released Monday, Obama was ahead of Romney by just one percentage point. It’s a razor thin margin which makes Virginia uncertain for both candidates.
The state of Virginia has voted Republican for 44 years, but in 2008 Obama won by a 6.3 per cent margin of victory, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the Old Dominion since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Obama hopes to repeat that success on Tuesday.
If the long lines are any indication, Virginia voters recognise the historic role they could play in choosing America’s next president. At polling stations across the state, voters are lining up, waiting sometimes 30 to 60 minutes, just to cast their ballots. Why? Virginia has 13 Electoral College votes at stake in the race to reach the magic 270 votes needed to win the White House.
For 44 years, Virginia voted Republican, but that changed in 2008, when Barack Obama won Virginia by six percentage points. The Obama campaign hopes to repeat the success of four years ago. Mitt Romney’s supporters hope Virginia will return to its conservative roots.
It’s a close race. In the latest poll numbers released Monday, Obama was ahead of Romney by just one percentage point. It’s a razor thin margin which makes Virginia uncertain for both candidates.
Voters recognise this. At a polling station I visited in downtown Richmond, I spoke to Anna Oakley. She told me she knew the vote in Virginia would be “on the line.” She said, “I knew it was important to get out early and cast my ballot. I just hope there’s a clear answer by the end of the night.”
It’s an emotion expressed over and over as I spoke with residents outside the polling station for Precinct #206. But, with a race this close, many are fearful it may be days before Virginia provides a decisive result.
“Virginia is one of the key swing states,” Jonathan Schlienz told me. “It’s one of the most important in the nation so that’s why it’s critical (for Virginians) to get out and vote.”
Both Romney and Obama see Virginia as a crucial path to the White House. The Romney camp visited the state a dozen times in just the past week. Obama closed out his campaigning with a rally in the state on Saturday night that was attended by 25-thousand supporters.
But, the campaigning is now over. With the candidates in a virtual tie, every vote in Virginia matters. It’s down to the ground game. The key to winning Virginia now is voter turnout and which campaign is most effective in getting their supporters to the polls.