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McCain votes silently, but with a big thumbs up

Held by a tight schedule, with two more campaign stops before close of polls, John McCain was into and out of his Phoenix polling station in no time. He didn't speak, but rather gave a small crowd the thumbs up.

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The triangular-shaped Albright United Methodist Church at Campbell and 24th in central Phoenix hadn’t drawn this big a crowd in a long time. Journalists and camera operators almost outnumbered the 50 or so voters waiting to cast their ballot under the Arizona sun.

When John McCain showed up just after 9, with his wife Cindy and the FBI in tow, fans gasped in awe while the cameras rushed for the best photo op. “We love you John!” The church is just a stone throw away from the elegant condo building into which the couple has recently moved.

McCain was quick and strictly business. Within minutes, he cast his vote and was ready to step back inside the massive silver SUV. He took time to shake a few hands, but none to deliver a few words. Instead, he gave the crowd the thumbs up.

An hour after she first came to cast her ballot, Jennifer Bongiovani, a 26 year-old who works in sales, was back at the church cheering when the McCain convoy pulled into the driveway.  

She said she wasn’t sure at first who to vote for. “I studied and went back and forth,” she said, but then she settled on McCain. “With all the bad stuff that’s happened, we need someone to clean the mess first. And that man is McCain. It’s not time for change and Obama, yet.”

High turnout expected

It was a short night for the Republican candidate. Breaking with tradition, McCain hasn’t yet called off his campaign. His last Arizona rally was held in the wee hours of the morning Tuesday in the town of Prescott. Two more stops in New Mexico and Colorado, two neighbouring battlegrounds, were added to his Election Day schedule. He’s expected back in Phoenix at the close of polls.

“Nobody knows what the voter turnout's going to be,” McCain told “Good Morning America” on ABC in an interview hours before polls opened. “I'm very happy with where we are. We always do best when I'm a bit of an underdog.”

In the Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix, officials projected an 80-85% turnout, one of the highest in the county’s history.

Lines outside polling stations stretched longer as the morning went on, with some voters showing up as early as 4am to be the first to vote. “I was at my Glenrosa polling station at 5:30 and there were already a hundred people in front of me,” said Ross Perry, the husband of the Albright Unitarian Methodist Church’s Pastor.

And most people didn’t mind the wait. “It does feel better to vote on Election Day,” said Steve Stanley, a 60-year-old graphic designer and Obama supporter. “You wait in line with other voters, it’s more rewarding.”

According to officials, 827,380 Maricopa County residents had requested absentee ballots or had voted as of 2 pm Friday. Sixty-eight percent of those ballots have been returned. There are about 1.7 million registered voters in the county.


Economics platform vs experience

Rushing back to his car for a post-ballot cigarette, John Hamel said his vote went to Obama.  “I’m looking at property in Argentina,” he says, half-jokingly. “If McCain is elected, I’m out of here.”

The 53-year-old engineer said he was sold on Obama’s economics policies. “McCain doesn’t anything about economics. When he was interviewed on 60 Minutes, he was asked ‘Senator, are we in a recession?’ He didn’t know the definition. A good leader would have said, ‘No, not yet, but we need to work hard to avoid it.”

Among Republican voters leaving the polling station, Obama’s lack of experience was a recurring argument. Mark and Kathrina Lazare, who described themselves as small-business owners, showed up to the church with handmade posters. One said “No experience, NObama,” the other urged to “Use you brain, vote McCain.”

Asked if John F. Kennedy hadn’t proven that experience was not all that it took to be a good president, Lazare, wearing a shirt that looked like it had been pieced together with parts of the US flag, said no. “Under JFK, we came close to the Cuba Missile crisis and that’s what’s going to happen to Obama,” he said. “Once elected, the world will test him.”

Vicky Vos, a saleswoman about to lose her job, and her daughter Sarah Jones, a medical assistant, voted together although not for the same candidate. While her mother raved about McCain as an experienced senator who has always done what he was asked to do, Vicky smiled. “Based on what I heard at the debates, I think Obama is a better choice,” she said.

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