Gauging Voters' Views Around the Nation
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
One of the Democratic candidates, reportedly, is ending his campaign. John Edwards is expected to drop out of the race later today. He is due to make an announcement in New Orleans, where he launched his popular campaign 13 months ago. Today, many of the candidates who are moving on to Super Tuesday, are headed to California. This state is the biggest prize in next week's coast to coast contest. From now, until then, our reporters will be in many of those states, following the candidates, talking to voters and covering the issues particular to each state.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Right now, we're going to travel with three reporters to three Super Tuesday states: Alabama, Arizona and the California.
First, to Birmingham, Alabama, where, as Tanya Ott reports, voters feel they finally have a say in the presidential race.
TANYA OTT: After holding the primary in June, the past four cycles, the state moved up the primary this year to February.
And veteran Democratic state lawmaker Fred Horn says it's about time.
Mr. FRED HORN (Democrat, Chairman of the State Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, Birmingham, Alabama): Now, we are a part. People are listening to us.
OTT: Huckabee, Obama, McCain, Edwards - they are all campaigning here, and the airwaves are filling up with ads. The Republicans are fighting for the votes of the state's 1.3 million southern Baptists, and other evangelicals, like college student Chad Henney(ph).
Mr. CHAD HENNEY (College Student): There's hardly ever a presidential candidate here, especially a Republican, because it's usually written off as a Republican state, so, yeah.
Unidentified Woman: Hi. Obama buttons.
Unidentified Man: Three for five?
Unidentified Woman: Five each or three for ten.
Unidentified Man: Oh.
OTT: In a typical year, about 40 percent of the Democratic electorate is African-American, but that number is expected to grow on Tuesday. Even some white Republicans, like Tim Blair(ph), are thinking about pulling the Democratic lever. Blair has voted GOP his entire life, but says he could cross over for Obama.
Mr. TIM BLAIR (Republican, Alabama): He's a compromiser, and that appeals to me right now.
OTT: Or Blair says he could easily go with moderate Republican John McCain. In Alabama, there is no party registration, so there could be a fair amount of crossing over. And it could begin today. Residents in Mobile have the option of voting today so it doesn't interfere with next week's Madri Gras.
For NPR News, I'm Tanya Ott in Birmingham.
TED ROBBINS: I'm Ted Robbins in south Tucson at Taqueria Pico De Gallo, a popular Mexican lunch spot.
Mr. FRANCISCO PESCARA(ph) (Owner, Taqueria Pico De Gallo): You know, the business is very slow right now. We're down, down, down for about 50 percent.
ROBBINS: After the economy, the big issue here in Arizona is immigration. Francisco Pescara, a Democrat, sees the two issues linked. Many of his customers are immigrants or have immigrant family members. They are leaving the state, he says, because of the economy and state laws cracking down on illegal immigrants. He won't say who he's voting for, but he's a prime target.
The state Democratic Party says 25 percent of its eligible voters are Hispanic. They've been favoring Hillary Clinton in polls, but the Obama campaign is hoping momentum and recent endorsements from the Kennedy family will benefit him.
Next door, Adam Delgado(ph) owns another restaurant. Delgado is a Republican who is also seeing fewer customers. He says he hasn't made up his mind who to vote for. All the candidates, he says, are making the same sweet promises.
Mr. ADAM DELGADO (Restaurant Owner): It's like that commercial of Honey Nut Cheerios commercial I have seen where he goes into the supermarket. Everything is Honey Nut Cheerios.
ROBBINS: John McCain was packaged in Arizona, though, and he is widely expected to win his home state. But Mitt Romney has been making headway among Republican activists who see him as more in line with party positions. McCain appeals to independents, but they will have to wait until the general election to vote. The state's primary is open only to party members.
Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.
INA JAFFE: I'm Ina Jaffe on the campus of UCLA.
Unidentified Man: Vote in a mock election today. It takes a few seconds.
JAFFE: Yesterday, student activists of both parties were hoping a mock election would rev up interest in the upcoming primary. Voters under 30 make up about 16 percent of the likely voters in California. And in this blue state, on this college campus, a lot of those potential voters were backing Barack Obama. Senior Curtis Whatley(ph) says the students here take his message of unity personally.
Mr. CURTIS WHATLEY (Senior Student, UCLA): We don't like it that when you go to dinner at your family's place that you can't talk to certain relatives because one of them is Republican and you happen to be a Democrat.
JAFFE: And you think that Senator Obama can change that?
Mr. WHATLY: I do.
JAFFE: Despite Obama's appeal to young voters, Hillary Clinton leads in the statewide polls here. Tiffany Niemen(ph) is a 35-year-old American lit major, and she admires Clinton's experience.
Ms. TIFFANY NIEMAN (American Lit Major, UCLA): She's actually the one that's going to make the change happen. So, you know, I'm hoping I can bring a little wisdom to the kids here.
(Soundbite of laughter)
JAFFE: Among Republicans, John McCain leads Mitt Romney in the most recent California polls, but none of those student Republicans we spoke with mentioned either of them. We met supporters of Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee. But most of the students passed by the mock election voting booth without casting a ballot. Maybe they're just waiting for the real thing next week.
Ina Jaffe, NPR News.
MONTAGNE: And if you go to npr.org/elections, there's a map of the primary state so you can track the candidates' activities going into Super Tuesday.
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