Final election thoughts

The crowd at Mitt Romney's rally Sunday in Bucks County was electric. (Tom Fitzgerald / Staff)

A few random election thoughts before the actual results tomorrow make them old news:

-- I was at Mitt Romney’s rally in Bucks Sunday night, along with Inquirer colleague Tom Fitzgerald, and I have to say that the atmosphere was electric and the crowd far larger than I anticipated. The Secret Service estimated there were 25,000 there, according to Tom. Everything about the event seemed big, from the huge bleachers set up behind Romney to the American flags that seemed as big as a basketball court to the long, long lines that people waited through as the sun set and temperatures plunged.

I tend to think that Romney only wins PA if he blows out Obama across the country; that if he becomes the first Republican since 1988 to win here, Pennsylvania will be a reflection of a huge Romney surge overall, rather than being the state that swings a close election. But in any case, the energy behind him was remarkable, and you could feel it despite the dark, cold skies.

That often seems to be the case – the enthusiasm gathers behind the side angry over what has occurred and seeking change. That’s what propelled Democrats in 2006 House elections and again in 2008, and Republicans who struck back in the 2010 mid-terms. It’s easier to channel your energy when you’ve been angered -- whether that’s politics, or getting mad at your cable company or writing a furious letter to the business that you think stiffed you. Advocating for the status quo just doesn’t come with the same sense of urgency.

-- I normally think it’s important for as many people as possible to participate in our civic process, but if you are going to let Obama and Romney’s interviews with ESPN tonight swing your decision, please just consider sitting this one out.

-- An anecdotal observation: driving around Bucks Sunday afternoon, I saw Tom Smith for Senate lawn signs all over the place, and not one for Sen. Bob Casey.

-- We all know we live in a divided country, but the visual display that we get on the election maps this time of year always drives that point home more than any dueling cable-TV rhetoric. The huge expanse of deep red in the middle of the country contrasting with the dark blue along the coasts is a striking image, for me at least. (It also makes clear just how much physical land mass is Republican territory, though obviously we count votes by people, not area.)

A couple stories this weekend made great points that illustrated just how many states – and voters within them – are essentially left out of our presidential races because their states lean so strongly in one direction. The New York Times wrote Sunday that the current candidates had visited just 10 states since their conventions, despite running in a race that could tilt either way. “There are towns in Ohio that have received more attention than the entire West Coast,” Adam Liptak wrote.

By contrast, in 1960 JFK and Richard Nixon ran an incredibly tight race, but the Democrat still visited 49 states and Nixon made it to all 50.

The Washington Post gave us a close up image on the ground: Eli Saslow visited a town that sits in the Iowa-Missouri border. Residents on the Iowa side have been bombarded with appeals, while those in Missouri have been largely ignored, because one is a swing state and the other solidly Republican. Same town, but the candidates only care about part of it.

-- Things I will not miss after Tuesday:
- The overused political jargon “head fake,” “ground game” and “state of play.”
- The attack ads that have inundated my television in Washington for months (it’s what I get for living by Virginia, a key swing state). Be glad, Pennsylvania, that you only got a week or so of it.
- Arguments over the New York Times’ Nate Silver. Hard to think of a more inane inside baseball debate than pundits vs. poll analyst, fought by pundits and poll analysts.

-- Most people will choose Obama or Romney Tuesday based on who they think best represents their beliefs or who they trust to make critical decisions. As the campaigns have carried on, the candidates have come to be seen as physical repositories for ideals and visions, rather than real flesh and blood men.

But there are real individuals behind these campaigns, and for each Tuesday will be a life-defining day. One will achieve a dream that few people even come close to (or, in Obama’s case, re-affirm a dream that he reached four years ago; to win but then get booted after four years would add a sour note to his historic 2008 victory). In each case, they will likely be done with campaigning, and their win or loss will be the last thing they take with them.

The Times has nice a look today at the personal sides of Romney and Obama as they race through these pressure-filled days.

-- Story I wish I had had the time to write:
Behind the candidates on the ballots are hordes of young, energetic campaign workers who months ago packed their clothes and smartphones and headed to new, unfamiliar locales for short-term assignments with uncertain futures.

They have come from New York and New Mexico and Texas to Philadelphia and its suburbs, never having visited, not knowing anyone, and basically lived these campaigns for months, skipping meals and working on little sleep. These are real believers on each side, putting their passion to work, when many could probably be making plenty of money and living easier schedules in the private sector.

It’s unclear what happens to them after Tuesday. The ones who worked on victorious campaigns will have a shot at jobs in Washington. For the rest, it’s loading up their belongings again and heading back home, or onto the job search, or another campaign in another part of the country, one with perhaps a very different character than Philly and an entirely new candidate and message to support.

Hopefully, though, after getting at least a few hours’ sleep.

-- I was on WHYY's Radio Times Friday talking about the race for PA. If you want to listen, here's the link.