It may be a battleground county in a battleground state, but it ain't easy being a Republican in Montgomery County, Pa., these days. Over the past year, get-out-the-vote efforts have registered far more Democrats than Republicans, and John Kerry carried the county 56 percent to 44 percent in 2004. The two GOP county commissioners are locked in a feud that's given Democrats more control of local policy. Here in Glenside, a mixed-race, tree-lined suburb northeast of Philadelphia, Republican Committeeman Stephen Conrad, who was working the local polls Tuesday, lamented that the school board hadn't elected a Republican in more than a decade. "We've been gradually losing Republicans and gaining Democrats over the past 20 years," says the longtime resident, a high-school social-studies teacher. "At times, it's been an exercise in frustration. "If that's true it surely didn't show Tuesday, as Conrad passed out voter info at Glenside Elementary School. (The only partisan bickering here was over which pastry from the bake sale were more delicious: the cupcakes or the donuts.) This is where three NEWSWEEK reporters set up camp, with a box of Dunkin Donuts (the inferior choice) and a video camera, to document voter reactions in this must-win state, where pre-election polls showed Barack Obama leading John McCain by just a few points. (Article continued below...)
We asked Montgomery County voters to step into a private video booth to confess their fears, hopes and excitement about a campaign that is expected to bring out more voters than possibly any election in history. "My hope is for reconciliation for a divided country," said Sue Pierce, a writing teacher at a local university. "Protecting [my daughters'] rights as women is near and dear to my heart," said another woman. "More than the issues, we believe the candidates we vote for should show character and integrity," said a husband and wife, both university professors. "This has been one of the biggest events of my life," said Phil Brown, a transplant from New York's Harlem and an Obama supporter who was working the polls. "It kind of feels like this is Christmas Eve, and I'm just waiting for the biggest gift of my life tomorrow."