Saturday, February 09, 2008

"At Seattle Caucus, Strong Obama Support"

The Trail, WaPo political blog:
Early this afternoon Madhavi Vuthoori, latte in hand, started making her way over to the Center School to caucus with other Democrats here. Vuthoori, a Teaneck, N.J.-native who works for "a tea start-up" -- that's cold, bottled chai, in case you were wondering -- was looking forward to participating in her first caucus even though she was torn on who to support.

"I'm undecided," she explained. "But I'm going to make a decision."
Just because Vuthoori hadn't picked between Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) didn't mean that she wasn't prepared. She had printed out the transcript of last month's Democratic debate in Los Angeles and read the entire thing, and had researched the rules for caucusing as well.

Once she made her way past the Key Arena -- where Obama drew an audience of roughly 17,000 on Friday -- she ducked into a part of the Seattle Center complex, and made her way past the food court to a polling place. The neighborhood, lower Queen Anne, is the kind of place where the voting sign-in sheet features two optional boxes: one for ethnicity and another for "LGBT," shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Plenty of other Democratic residents of precinct 1704 had shown up as well. Between 350 and 450 voters from half a dozen precincts came to vote, compared to 175 last time. After voters made their way into a cramped classroom Lindsay Bealko -- who cautioned she had "no formal role whatsoever" in the polling process -- informed the group they needed to "try to really slowly and really carefully" to make their way to a bigger room so as not to present a fire hazard. After the crowd of 107 relocated to a bigger room, they had to switch once more to an even larger room.

Vuthoori settled into her chair, flanked on both sides by Obama supporters who touted their candidate's positions on climate change and student grants (she's applying to graduate school at the moment).

And while she wasn't about to declare, Vuthoori was leaning toward Obama from the outset. The two candidates held roughly the same positions, Vuthoori noted, and while she admired Clinton's experience, Obama had opposed the war from the outset.

"My gut feeling goes to him," she explained. "He's nice. It might be nice to have a nice guy in the Oval Office."

At the outset of the caucus, Nicole Drinkwine-Suarez read the preliminary numbers: Obama 74, Clinton 21, Edwards 3 and Undecided 9. And then the caucusing began.

Different representatives made their cases: the Edwards supporter, Todd Lawson explained that he wanted Democrats to remember that infighting could undermine their ability to bring change.

"My point is, let's get the Republicans out of the White House," Lawson said to scattered applause. "Hillary's change, Obama's change, maybe slightly different flavors, maybe different aisles, but in the same supermarket."

Eddie Snead made the shortest pitch: "Obama, Obama, Obama." That prompted Ben Kirk to offer a more elaborate defense, saying that the first time in his 32-year old life he believed, "There may be a future for me if we get some change going on."

Clinton supporter Pat McCoy sounded a little like the senator herself as she detailed her 35-years of government experience. "I'm a good bureaucrat, believe me," she said.

Then, she sounded a little blunter than Clinton. "I can honestly say that in my adult life this country has never been in such dire straits. On every front--there's no point in making a list--we're in deep shit," she said. "Hillary Clinton is the only one who can fix this mess."

And finally, the undecideds got a chance to voice their concerns. Michael Goros, sporting a black jacket with a red silk-screened image of Bush's face and the words "war criminal," spoke of how he had initially backed Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and now didn't know where to turn.

"I don't want the corporate-sponsored candidate," he lamented.

Goros switched to Obama, as did Vuthoori.

Then, Kirk announced the final tally: 78 for Obama, 27 for Clinton, and 2 Undecided. Out of the 11 total delegates headed to the King County convention in April, Obama won eight compared to Clinton's three.

Vuthoori left feeling comfortable with her vote. "He's less divisive in the country, and he's more humanistic," she said of Obama. "Clinton's great, but she seems more capitalistic, more corporate. Ultimately it was more of a gut decision than an intellectual one."



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