- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Albert and Anniken Davenport, consultants who live in Harrisburg, Pa., and my classmates at Johns Hopkins University, brought the Pennsylvania Democratic primary home to me this weekend.

“Hey, Adrienne, we’re at an Obama rally,” Albert shouted into his cell phone so he could be heard over the crowd of supporters for Sen. Barack Obama.

The couple live close enough to the state Capitol steps to hear the political speeches from their back yard, but they decided to walk their dog, Chip, a “Bichon for Obama,” up the block for a closer look Saturday evening.

Have you noticed how passionate so many Democrats are about their preferred candidate? But it is downright folly to assume that the color of a voter’s skin determines the choice of a voter’s candidate.

Anniken, who is of Norwegian descent, said she is “not used to seeing that many African-Americans in Harrisburg for a rally because traditionally they do not go out and vote.” That lack of political participation in a predominantly black city might explain why the mayor is a white man, she said. And the untraditional participation might also explain why she and Albert “don’t think the conventional wisdom [about the primary outcome] is true anymore.”

By Albert’s estimation, a lot of new voters registered to cast ballots in today’s Democratic primary in the Keystone State, and he thinks the pollsters might have missed them in their calculations that give Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton the lead.

Among the new voters is the Davenports’ son, an American University student, who was excited to cast an absentee ballot.

“The polls may not be accurate depending on the list of registered voters they used,” Albert said. “[Pollsters] may not be catching new voters or voters who switched parties.” Anniken added that “a lot of new voters are cell-phone folks and don’t have a land line,” the primary vehicle by which polls are conducted.

Albert is a native Pennsylvanian and a history buff who can rattle off presidential history like some people can pull baseball stats out of the sky.

“Since I’ve been old enough to vote, ours has always been one of the later [primaries], and it’s the first time I can actually go out and vote when the nominee has not been determined,” he said.

On Friday, I visited my grandmother’s cousin, who lives in a senior citizens complex off New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring. She is helping me with a family history project. But our memories were interrupted by news alerts about the Pennsylvania primary polls, which we agreed changed too fast to keep track of.

Don’t count this 80-year-old among those older black folks infected with “history-in-the-making” Obamamania. Something “just doesn’t sit right” with her about the swagger she perceives in Mr. Obama’s steps. “I think he’s too smug and arrogant and a know-it-all,” she said. “It’s something about him that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe because he acts like he’s won [the nomination] already.”

Earlier Friday, I had a meeting with a 58-year-old associate, a white mother of two young girls who works from her lovely Chevy Chase home. Before I could step across her flagstone threshold, she launched into a visceral tirade against the junior senator from New York.

“I’ve sent e-mail to everyone I can think of, including Hillary, to say I will never, never, never vote for her because of her negative campaigning,” she said.

“Bitter? Who isn’t bitter?” she asked of what she angrily perceived as the trumped-up controversy around Mr. Obama’s remarks about rifles and religion and rural voters.

Later that evening, seeking respite from the Pennsylvania primary mania, I met another friend at Takoma Station Tavern in the District for what I hoped would be a rare happy, happy-hour outing.

Not a chance. With CNN reports blaring from the television, the inevitably heated political discourse began. That the Democrats are self-imploding is the only consensus that was reached.

“This should have been a cakewalk for the Democrats even in the face of how historic this is, but you get the sense that they are about to blow it,” said my friend, a news junkie. Mr. Obama’s “brushing off your shoulders” Jay-Z imitation aside, Sistagirl is still concerned whether the junior senator from Illinois can win the general election come November against the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

It is a brave black soul, like my 40-something Sistagirl, who publicly admits that she still hasn’t made up her mind.

“We fought, we marched, we protested so that we could have our own opinion, so that we would have to march in lock step even with each other,” she said. “Here we are faced with the first really truly viable [black] candidate for office, but you feel vilified if you are black and you haven’t jumped aboard the Obama train.

“I find it ironic that in the beginning of this campaign, people were asking the question, ‘Is [Obama] black enough?’ but now the question they are asking seems to be if the rest of us are ‘black enough’ if we don’t support him.

“Well, that’s crazy,” she said, “when we should be keeping our eyes on the prize, and the prize is the White House.”

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