This marks the seventh week I've been on the road through the battleground states of America.  I am a documentary photographer, traveling with the inimitable Sean Quinn over at FiveThirtyEight.

The trip has been a joy, and professionally a labor of love. I've been moved by what I've seen, and I wrote this diary to share it with this community.

Below the fold are photographs I have taken (state by state) of Obama, Biden, and their surrogates; the inspired field organizers; and the dedicated volunteers who have made this all possible, from the ground up.

Tiny Obama - BrettMarty.com  Tiny Biden - BrettMarty.com

:: The Candidates ::

Obama Rally; Dayton, Ohio - BrettMarty.com

Click on any picture to view a gallery of all of my photographs of each candidate or state. DKos was having a problem with the embedded slideshows, so I replaced them with screenshots that lead you to the full gallery.

Obama Rally; Dayton, Ohio - BrettMarty.com  Biden Rally; Marietta, Ohio - BrettMarty.com

McCain Rally; Miami, Florida - BrettMarty.com

Palin Rally; Wilmington, Ohio - BrettMarty.com  Palin Rally; Wilmington, Ohio - BrettMarty.com

Candidates Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.


:: The Battleground States ::

Battleground Galleries - BrettMarty.com

Click for Battleground Galleries


:: Nevada ::

The Hoover Dam - BrettMarty.com

We started towards Nevada from Barstow -- the brutally hot, dead end of the United States -- through Death Valley into our first battleground. My first Nevada stop was a little desert town called Pahrump. Sean had been up north by himself. This was my first experience in an Obama field office. The office was just outside of town, behind a lazy gas station, with a few volunteers making calls and chatting in a relaxed manner that matched the town itself. Since it was my first stop, I felt a bit shy.  It was new; I felt awkward. Fortunately, Sean is at home in field offices and jumped in with a few relevant questions while I quietly took a few pictures in the back.

We drove past cacti all afternoon, toward the southeast, until we reached Vegas -- where a lot of the action will be on election night. Bush won Nevada from Kerry by exactly 21,500 votes, so we were curious how the two sides would match up against each other. Clark County is where Obama needs to run up his totals in order to hold his own in the more typically Republican, rural areas to the north.

The Silver State - BrettMarty.com  The Luxor - BrettMarty.com

One feature common all across the United States is the affinity for the strip malls that punctuate our boulevards. Because of their convenience, field offices pop up inside them almost as fast as the strip malls themselves. We stopped in one such Obama office in North Vegas. It was a small set of rooms, but it was packed with the kind of diversity of volunteers that we would continue to see all across the country. At every seat, a volunteer dialed away, and a middle-aged black woman greeted us at the door, thinking we were there to volunteer.

Two or three people in their early twenties were buzzing in and out of the back office, alternating their attention between the volunteers at the desks and the ones on their Blackberries. I would soon come to know these folks as Field Organizers, the bread-and-butter of campaign staff. The FOs shepherded us toward volunteers who could tell us about their experiences. It was prime call time, and we didn't want to take them away from their phones, so we decided to go check out the activity at a McCain office.

The Only Truth - BrettMarty.com  The Strip - BrettMarty.com

When we walked in the door at the first Vegas McCain office, the difference in tone shocked us. Generally speaking, there is a frenetic, positive tone set by the Obama FOs; McCain offices are more subdued, with an organizer acting, like Sean likes to say, as a maître d': lead volunteers to a phone, return to your seat. It was about 7:30pm when we walked in, and the front office was empty. A young woman came from the back to ask if she could help us with anything. We explained quite formally about our press status and that we'd like to take a look at the office. She led us to a phone bank of 20 phones staffed by two old veterans hunched over disengaged phones, their eyes glued to the football game. "We like to keep them entertained," she said.

When Sean and I walked out of the office, we looked at each other and said, "Obama's going to win." Sean meant Nevada; I meant the United States. We went to several more offices on both sides. The differences between the two campaigns remained palpable.

Lake Mead - BrettMarty.com  Vegas Volunteers - BrettMarty.com

After call time, we met up with the Executive Director of the Nevada Republican Party who acknowledged the intense activity of the Obama campaign. However, he was dubious of its impact on election day and assured us that the GOP would win Nevada even if they were down by as much as three points. Republicans have been dominating ground game efforts for the past seven cycles, and the ED communicated that, with the efficiency of their micro-targeting, they would remain the big dog until proven otherwise. Afterward, when we caught up with the Obama field people at the Nevada HQ, where they smiled and told us about the recently released voter registration numbers. At the time, Clark County had netted a +100k Democratic voter registration gain, and with the more Republican parts of the state factored in, this translated to +75k statewide advantage. (Now, just before election day the statewide edge has moved up to roughly 107k). It had grown late and so we drove down to The Strip to get some night shots of the town at its energetic apogee.

When one stays in Vegas, there is the rigid custom of sleazy motels. Not ones to break with tradition, we found ourselves a beaut'. The next day we investigated a few more offices further out in Clark County and drove out to Lake Mead for a landscape photo. We settled in to a coffee shop to write and process photos. The Las Vegas post went live on FiveThirtyEight, and it was almost 11pm by the time we reached the Hoover Dam on our way east. On a gorgeous, starlit calm night, we sat on the ledge and shared a beer while I took a night exposure of the dam. From the parked car, we heard Anderson Cooper's voice over the newly-installed satellite radio, talking about Lehman Brothers. We had been so busy, this was the first we had heard of the financial collapse. Thankfully we had beer.

We drove through the night, Saguaros jumping out at our headlights as we passed through the Sonoran desert. We wound our way uphill to Flagstaff on I-40, over the map of Arizona, and down through Winslow and the Petrified Desert to New Mexico.

Nevada Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: New Mexico ::

Adobe Houses - BrettMarty.com  Welcome to New Mexico - BrettMarty.com

In the morning, we arrived in western New Mexico. It was Navajo country. In Gallup, a small western town cut in half by trains several times an hour, we stopped at the Obama office. For a town that has never before seen a Democratic presidential office, it was surprising to see how organically the region was being organized. It was staffed by a pair of energetic, encouraging Navajo women who were organizing volunteers among the Navajo community to canvass the farthest reaches of the reservations. These drives would take hours, but the dedication was evident. Dropping outsiders into this region to persuade the Native Vote would clearly not have worked. Respect-Empower-Include, using local people to communicate with their neighbors and build the party from the ground up.

Nadine - Gallup, NM - BrettMarty.com  Native Votes - BrettMarty.com  Piggy Back - BrettMarty.com

We got back on I-40 and headed to Albuquerque and Santa Fe to plow through over a dozen offices. For a state that went to Bush by only 5,988 votes in 2004, it was a shock to see how lopsided the state was in terms of field offices. Obama had just opened his 39th office when we were there in mid-September, all of which were heavily active. McCain had just gone from five offices to a generous "ten," a good portion of which turned out to be skeleton operations.

We hustled past the adobe houses lining the quiet streets of Santa Fe and onto the highway towards the old Hispanic town of Española. Senator Obama was holding a rally, and it was the first time we would cross paths with him. I worked the photogenic crowd for the hours preceding the event, while Sean schmoozed with the directors of Obama's state outfit and acquired a ridiculous sunburn. We have had a pretty chummy relationship with the campaign from the outset, and after some negotiations (and Sean's wordy charm), I was granted five minutes of "Buffer Zone" access -- the five foot crawl space between the candidate and the crowd. This photo with the Senator and the logo of the NM flag was the first I took of him, and it remains my favorite. He was pleading with the Hispanic community to "Vote Your Numbers," to represent itself properly in this country. The crowd around me went silent for a moment, as if pondering the wisdom of his message, and suddenly erupted in a roar. Needless to say, I was reluctant to leave the Buffer Zone at the thought of missing any opportunity to photograph the Senator. However, the Secret Service can be persuasive.

Obama Rally; Española, New Mexico - BrettMarty.com  Vote Your Numbers - BrettMarty.com

After the rally, we spotted a counter-programming effort by a handful of local Republicans. Excepting the man proudly puffing out his "Right-Wing Hunter" t-shirt, the table we posed, and one "Don't be Insane, Vote McCain" signholder their effort went unnoticed as the thousands who had gathered for the rally streamed back to their cars.

We headed west to visit the Obama office in Farmington, the northwest corner of New Mexico. The McCain office there had closed for the day, if indeed it had been open. We sped toward Colorado, the faint outlines of mountain ridges piling up on both sides, hemming us in on the highway, the stars poking holes in the night sky, the yellow stitches of the median leading us through the night to Durango.

New Mexico Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Colorado ::

Cortéz, Colorado - BrettMarty.com

The Mountain West. I woke up the next morning and scratched my head. I had forgotten there would be mountains.

It was a Saturday, prime time for canvassing. The Obama office could not have been busier. There were several groups of ten to twenty people being trained. I followed a young couple and their seven month old daughter from door to door. Durango has become progressively more friendly to Democrats. After the bursting enthusiasm we saw in the Obama office, we assumed the Republicans would be working extra hard to contest the area, so we went to check out their office down the street.

It was closed. On a Saturday. Just six weeks before the election.

Durango Canvassers - BrettMarty.com  Durango Canvassers - BrettMarty.com

After Nevada & New Mexico, we had grown accustomed to the Obama groundswell overpowering McCain's "Victory Centers." But, to see Colorado, the seminal swing state (next to Virginia), so disproportionate... was a little jarring. If John McCain isn't trying to tamp down Obama's margin of victory in blue areas, he must be concentrating on running up his totals in the red ones, right? So the next morning, after a brief detour in Colorado National Monument Park, we planned to head into Grand Junction to do a story on what McCain was doing in deep red country.

Sunday, another big canvassing day, and another Republican county office was closed. The Obama canvassers I followed in Grand Junction were brave. I watched them go to door after door, getting nothing but disappointing responses. They made a whole-hearted effort to talk to every last persuadable voter on their list. Before we left Grand Junction, Sean had to get something off his chest. As a former Tester organizer in Montana, he feels very close to the organizing story. One thing we had seen in office after office (on both sides) was the frustration over yard signs. People would come in to an office, demand a yard sign, and leave. Frustratingly, these were usually people with enough time to give the organizer hell when the signs were out of stock but not enough time to volunteer. An issue close to Sean's heart, he wrote the epic Yard Sign Post that would endear us to every field organizer we met for the rest of the trip.

Eagle, Colorado - BrettMarty.com  Colorado Springs, Colorado - BrettMarty.com  Railroad, CO Springs - BrettMarty.com

We badly wanted to get to the bottom of McCain's ground efforts in Colorado, so we sped through Denver and down to Evangelical ground zero (and location of the Dobson's Focus on the Family HQ), Colorado Springs. Bingo. Though there was only one staff organizer that popped in and out for the whole region, the office was bustling with several volunteers making calls to all different parts of the state. When we asked about the enthusiasm of the volunteers, one said that before the Palin pick, "you could hear a pin drop." At over 11% of Colorado's vote, El Paso County was twice a blowout for Bush, and it would be where McCain would rack up enough votes to balance out the deep blues of Boulder. Although McCain's efforts seemed paltry on the Western Slope, we walked away feeling like we'd finally seen some real effort.

Denver, Colorado - BrettMarty.com  Durango, Colorado - BrettMarty.com  Thorton, Colorado - BrettMarty.com

Until we got to the Obama office.

In Colorado Springs, the heart and soul of the Republican social and religious conservative base, Obama had more paid organizers than McCain had staff and volunteers put together. This office was a warehouse. Thus solidified in our minds the vast schism between the two ground games of seemingly different centuries. It's hard to explain. It doesn't feel like Obama and McCain are competing on the same playing field when it comes to ground games. One of them is the traditional ground game that secured the presidency for Republicans seven out of the last ten terms. The other is something never before seen, something out of a new century.

Questioned on the disconnect between the frenetic energy of Obama's game compared to their rather cavalier efforts, Republicans cite the efficiency of their voter file. Sean likes to describes their ground game as on "cruise control, or a train on traintracks." They're going to do what they've always done, they can't speed up or slow down, for better or worse. I guess we'll see how far it gets them this time. The next day we toured the Denver offices and went up through the aspens to Boulder. More of the same. No contest.

That night, our last in Colorado, we went to the famous My Brother's Bar (where Kerouac and Neil Cassidy supposedly used to hang out) to plan out the rest of our trip. We had Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, Iowa, and 1,500 miles to cover in the next two days on our way to Oxford, Mississippi, for the first Presidential Debate. We realized we had to get up well before dawn in order to get a story in Omaha and arrive in Des Moines by the end of the day. At that prospect, we decided to have another beer and amble about nostalgically in the parking lot where The Big Tent once stood at the DNC. We rested our eyes at each stoplight as we poked through downtown Denver, searching for beds.

Colorado Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Nebraska ::

I-80, Nebraska - BrettMarty.com

Three hours later I sourly climbed out of bed and bellowed a wake up call at Sean. I fetched the pillow from the trunk and politely let him drive for the first shift. I woke up a couple hours later to monotone renditions of Jewel songs, which was supposed to signal that it was my turn to drive. In retaliation, I took another 15 minute nap until I saw Sean's eyelids begin to drip like a leaky faucet. I took the wheel and drove into the sunrise.

We got to Omaha just after noon and met up with Kid Oakland, the New Media director for Scott Kleeb's Senate race. He gave us a run down of the state's demographics and explained the uphill battle for name recognition Kleeb faces in his quest to defeat Johanns. It's a challenge similar to the play Obama is making for the one electoral vote in the 2nd congressional district that surrounds around Omaha. Nebraska rewards its electoral votes just like Maine: two to the overall winner of the state and one for each congressional district. Next door to Kleeb's headquarters was the sleepy Republican office for Douglas County. They didn't seem too worried.

Omaha, Nebraska - BrettMarty.com  I-80, Nebraska - BrettMarty.com

But perhaps they should be.

1,100 people came to the opening of the Obama office in downtown Omaha the week before we arrived. "We essentially shut down midtown," we were told by John Berge, the State Director for Nebraska. Kerry lost the district by 37,500, but Kerry wasn't trying to compete. With 15 staff and 10 paid organizers, the Obama campaign is taking it very seriously. During our visit, Obama was behind somewhere between 4 and 6 points in the public polls. Sean asked Berge what to watch for if the race was closing. "If you hear of any of the surrogates or principals from the McCain campaign coming to visit, their numbers are in trouble."

Sure enough, one week later, we caught wind that Sarah Palin was heading to Omaha.

We got back in the car to finish our drive across the plain as the sun went down. The tall grass along the highway turned to corn tassels, and we arrive in Des Moines well after sunset.

Nebraska Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Iowa ::

Polk County, Iowa - BrettMarty.com

We caught Iowa's first early voters on September 25. There were Obama people at Java Joe's for an early vote kickoff event, and we followed the crowd to the polls. People were explaining that Early Voting is important because it allows the campaign to reallocate their resources on election day for a more efficient GOTV. During early vote periods, campaigns can nudge the sporadic voters who are more difficult to get to the polls on election day. I was scolded for taking pictures of the voting booths, so we made our way back to the car to explore the town. I don't like being scolded.

Ask Me about - BrettMarty.com  Early Voting - BrettMarty.com

Inside Obama's field offices, we found veteran organizers who had been camped out since long before the January caucus. When we walked into McCain's regional HQ, his communications spokeswoman wouldn't allow us to take photos or speak with volunteers. A quick glimpse into the back room confirmed out suspicions: not much going on here. Feeling pretty confident about Iowa, we worked our way through cornfields on back roads toward Missouri. We arrived for the night in St. Louis, where Sean has family, early enough to enjoy a hot dinner. The next morning we made off for the land of Faulkner, overgrown graveyards, and slouching River Birches. We arrived on the Ole Miss campus in the midst of a human maelstrom. There were crowds of supporters with every size and color of placards, buttons, and stickers. Under a tent in a far corner, Chris Matthews was prattling on about the stakes of the evening while Howard Dean did his best to calm him. There was a humid air of anticipation, and we stretched out our extension cords and took our seats, the heat of our laptops making our knees sweat. After the debate, we took the press shuttle back to the press parking lot, our driver pumping his fist and singing country songs. Apparently, it was "a great day to kick somebody's ass." We got back to the car near midnight and decided to drive back up to St. Louis. I again let Sean have the first driving shift. Brett Marty a good friend.

Iowa Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Missouri ::

Washington University, St. Louis - BrettMarty.com

We took a few much-needed days to relax at Sean's family's house in the run up to the VP Debate. We made a good-hearted attempt to cover a few offices in Missouri, but we realized the anemic ground game efforts we witnessed from McCain in the west were endemic across the country. Perhaps sensing this, the Missouri Republican Party requested that we steer clear of their state offices. We were much obliged.

VP Debate, St. Louis - BrettMarty.com  VP Debate, St. Louis - BrettMarty.com  VP Debate, St. Louis - BrettMarty.com

The morning of the VP debate, we set up camp at Washington University. Sean holed up in the basement of the student center while I scoured the campus for interesting looking people to photograph. I ran into Howard Dean's press secretary, and we were able to get a few minutes to ask Dean about Catalist, the Democrats' answer to Voter Vault. While Catalist was on its second cycle (to Voter Vault's seventh) Dean answered simply, "ours is better." There are fewer variables (30 to Voter Vault's 250) that allow for a more streamlined micro-targeting. Furthermore, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were allowed use of voter files during the primaries under the condition that they return their data to the DNC database after the primaries. The contentious primaries allowed for a massive colonic cleansing of voter file databases everywhere.

VP Debate, St. Louis - BrettMarty.com VP Debate, St. Louis - BrettMarty.com

The morning after the debate we were eager to get back in the car and so we headed up to Chicago to visit Nate on our way to Indiana. Our arrival was timely. Earlier that morning Nate had called out Real Clear Politics, and we arrived just in time to hear about the impassioned phone call he had received from John McIntyre, RCP's founder. After warming our throats with a few RCP shooters (a complicated cocktail involving cherry liqueur in honor of cherry-picking), Nate took us on a brief tour of his local taquerias.

We awoke bright and early in the afternoon and decided to pop in for a quick tour of the Obama National Headquarters. We ran into Bill Burton by the elevator, and when Sean asked him about the yard sign post, Burton betrayed the classic grin he usually reserves for Fox & Friends. We got back to the car a little behind schedule, and I did my best to convince Sean we had time to stop at the Billy Goat's Tavern below Michigan Avenue. He wasn't having any of it -- a misstep for which, while we drove over the border to Indiana, I decided I could never forgive him.

Missouri Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Indiana ::

Tippecanoe County, Indiana - BrettMarty.com

We drove into Gary at dusk, just in time to see the kind of beautiful streaked sunset only the rust belt's population of smokestacks can produce. During a brief stop at the Gary office, one one of the organizers discovered Sean was the author of the Yard Sign Post and flung herself headlong into his arms. Although this was nice for Sean's spirits, I saw an ill portent. It's my (and 538's) firm policy never to give Sean anything to feel correct about.

From Gary, we made our way down to Lafayette, and found ourselves in the same office as retired Senator Birch Bayh. A legend in Indiana, he was crucial to the 1964 Civil Rights act and the primary architect of the 25th and 26th amendments. An effective surrogate, he was touring Indiana, and he spoke about the grassroots efforts that won him his first election in 1962. He'd won by one vote per precinct. He pressed the fifty or so people packed into the field office to make sure to be that one vote. It was easy to see why he is so well loved among Hoosiers.

Lauren in Columbus - BrettMarty.com  Indiana Sunset - BrettMarty.com

The following day we found ourselves in Bloomington on the last day of voter registration. We met Jim Snaza, an Obama Student GOTV Cordinator, and he told us 11,000 IU students had been registered to vote since August 15. The student who registered the most voters would get a basketball signed by Barack. At the beginning of the day, Jim was in the lead with 798 until his roommate returned with a stack of registrations slightly taller than his. On that one day alone, they had registered 1,000 students. I held the stack in my hands, it was nothing short of impressive.

Better Know a District; Bloomington, Indiana - BrettMarty.com  Birch Bayh; Lafayette, Indiana - BrettMarty.com

Earlier that day we had made some friends at the Kinko's printing business cards so Sean would have something to hand Howard Fineman. They took us to a local comedy club for beer, nachos, and stand-up imported from Kentucky. Anne Frank jokes never fail. Early the next morning we tore down to Tennessee for the second debate, just in time for Sean to have the worst day of his life. We were stuck in a traffic jam just outside of Nashville for several hours, delaying our arrival just long enough to be too late to pick up our press credentials. We decided our best option was to find the student center on the Belmont University campus, but after after several disagreeable experiences, one which resulted in the destruction of Sean's laptop, we decided to watch the debate at a pizzeria down the street.

Monroe County, Indiana - BrettMarty.com  Obamaaaaaaa - BrettMarty.com

After a short night in a familiar Motel 6, we found ourselves back in Indiana in a town called New Albany, across the river from Kentucky. I spent most of my time photographing the tank parked in the VFW parking lot advertising the weekly euchre night. Hoosiers love their euchre, and they will protect it any cost. We found out Obama was going to be in nearby Ohio in two days time and jumped in the car and headed off for Ohio. We made a brief stop in the Columbus (IN) field office to prove that it existed and headed out of town under dim streetlights and Indiana's recessed houses with natural-looking lawns, from one access road to the next, past phosphorescent factories and belching chimneys.

Indiana Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Ohio ::

Sandusky, Ohio - BrettMarty.com

For many reasons, Ohio was one of my favorite stops. On our first morning we saw a show-stopper of a Barack rally in Dayton. The showmanship of which was only slightly topped by the high theatrics of a Palin rally in Wilmington, home to the ever politically expedient DHL factories. They pulled out all the stops, and it was nothing short of impressive. After several snooze-worthy introductory speakers and two viewings of the video bio piece that was stepped on by Gulliani at the RNC, the main event finally arrived. This was my first Palin rally, and it was noteworthy to see a crowd in the kind of rapture we've come only to expect in Obama's crowds.

Friday Night Football; Tipp City, Ohio - BrettMarty.com  Babies Murdering Muslims; Toledo, Ohio - BrettMarty.com

Suddenly the lights dropped off and a song I recognized from Jock Jams came over the loudspeakers. On the video screens was the Straight Talk Express approaching the building. When it reached the building, the screens went dark. A section of the wall behind the stage began to rise. The crowd went nuts, and The Straight Talk Express drove directly into the building. Chords from "Eye of the Tiger" and artificial fog began pouring into the room. Palin bounded off the bus and was joined on stage by Piper and Bristol Palin carrying baby Trig. You had to give them the style points.

Troy, Ohio - BrettMarty.com  Monkey; Enon, Ohio - BrettMarty.com

After fifteen minutes in the buffer zone, one generally has exhausted every angle to photograph; one gets bored. I saw Bristol looking around the crowd, similarly bored out of her mind. In light of her upcoming marriage, I thought a little mischief might pass the remaining 20 minutes that Palin would spend talking about Bill Ayers. I caught Bristol's eye and gave her a quick wink. She smiled but tried to pretend not to notice. Half-awkwardly, I went back to taking pictures. But I noticed for the remainder of Gov. Palin's speech, I kept catching Bristol's eyes on me. After the event, I relayed my amusement to Sean. He looked at me blankly. "Dude. That was Willow. She's 14! You're a dirty, dirty man." For the only time this trip, I had to side with Sean. Oops.

Troy, Ohio - BrettMarty.com  Nobama - BrettMarty.com

We followed Obama to Toledo the next night, where he would be doing debate prep for the town hall. While there, Obama went canvassing. Personally. That would have been a good "ground game" story, but the Obama campaign only tipped off Jeff Zeleny of the NYT. Epic Fail. Dejected, we hustled southeast to catch a Biden rally with the Boilermakers, which cheered us up considerably. With a burger, a beer, and a laptop in front of each of us, we got an email from a guy on Biden's advance team. They had read we were in town for the rally, and we met them out for a drink.

When McCain pulled out of Michigan, it opened up a few days on our schedule. We left the bar and stopped at a motel off the interstate. The man behind the desk was such a surly bastard that we made a snap decision to get back on the road and drive through the night to West Virginia, which had suddenly climbed its way onto the swing state list. We were too drowsy to make it very far and settled into an ominous motel with floor-length windows and ruby drapes that smelled like ass. We awoke when the cleaning lady pounded on our door at 8am, yelling something shrill in Hindi.  

Ohio Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: West Virginia ::

I-79, West Virginia - BrettMarty.com

Being a resident of San Francisco and having spent the last year driving my Buick to Argentina, it had been four or five years since I had seen autumn. As a child in Wisconsin, it was my favorite season, and West Virginia's was a spectacular one. We only had time for a brief stop in Morgantown, home of WVU, to check out the "Yes We Van" shuttles that were circulating campus to deliver folks to early voting locations.

Welcome to Wes - BrettMarty.com  Yes We Van; Morgantown, West Virginia - BrettMarty.com

We were in West Virginia just as two polls put Obama down by 0.4 and 2.0 -- West Virginia was seemingly in play. As the afternoon wore on, the air became crisp, and we headed back to the car to fetch our jackets. On our way, we stumbled upon an all-but-boarded-up Ralph Nader field office. We threw on our jackets and headed toward the state line just as the sunlight was turning red, racing to find a television to catch the final debate.

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Pennsylvania ::

Michelle at Univ. of Pittsburgh - BrettMarty.com

We arrived in Washington, Pennsylvania, on the heels of Jack Murtha's comment that Western PA residents were racist. We settled down and opened our laptops for the debate live blog. Afterwards, we met up with a canvasser who confirmed a startling anecdote we'd heard first in Ohio. He knocked on a door and asked the woman who answered if she had decided who to vote for. The woman yelled over her shoulder to her husband watching a game to ask who she was voting for. He responded, "we're votin' for the n***er!" The woman turned back to the canvasser and said matter-of-factly, "we're voting for the n***er." How do you process that information? Sean makes a good point, "In this economy, racism is officially a luxury." Unbelievable.

Get Involved; Kennet Square, Pennsylvania - BrettMarty.com  Casperr; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - BrettMarty.com

The following day we headed eagerly toward the University of Pittsburgh for a Michelle Obama rally. She has picked up the emotional threads Barack has left behind while he concentrates on policy. It's a little awkward when you're on your knees in front of the stage, a camera to your eye, and you get a little choked up. Her speech was a hint of what it's going to feel like on election night. In Grant Park, I don't know how I'm going to focus; hopefully I will remember to release the shutter.

University of Pittsburgh - BrettMarty.com  North Philly Burbs, Pennsylvania - BrettMarty.com

After the speech, we wandered into in a field office near campus and caught an organizer on his way to lunch. He was meeting some volunteers at Five Guys Burgers. He was only vaguely aware of 538, so he mentioned it to his coworkers while Sean and I were ordering. While I was trying to explain that I didn't want mayonnaise on my burger, we turned around to a mob of seven or eight asking us for our autographs. Sean and I had to laugh. They must've thought we were Nate.

We quickly moved along to Philly, where we met Kos Diarist extraordinaire, Casperr, in a parking lot. She often comes down from New York with a crew to canvass Philly. I quickly took some photos before they pounded the shoe leather. We paused in a coffee shop for a few hours to re-caffeinate and catch up on some work. Sean filled the gas tank while I cleaned off the headlights, and we headed down the parkway and into our nation's capital. I hadn't seen D.C. since I lived there during my work for AmeriCorps, and we drove along the elevated boulevard of Whitehurst Expressway, but couldn't find any cozy cocktail parties to attend with the Georgetown cocktail party set.

Pennsylvania Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Virginia ::

Ablemarle County, Virginia - BrettMarty.com

We woke up the next day and headed south into NoVA. The Obama Falls Church office was perhaps the most impressive office we have been to (in close competition with Charlotte). It was in an old beauty salon, and its phone bank was packed, as were its 15 staging locations. Quite a glaring contrast to the complementary McCain office down the highway. At five in the afternoon, the McCain office had one person manning a table of 40 phones, and they were closing up. So we moved further down the road for an obligatory stop at the Leesburg office, infamous for forfeiting the election for lack of Yard Signs. At dusk we headed back to D.C. to take some night shots of the monuments. The photo you see of the Washington Monument is the happy accident of a shitty tripod.

Abingdon, Virginia - BrettMarty.com Washington, D.C. - BrettMarty.com  Charlottesville, Virginia - BrettMarty.com

The next day we had an appointment with Governor Tim Kaine, a 538 fan. He spoke confidently about Virginia's ground game and suggested that the "Real America" comments by a McCain advisor would hurt him. After our interview, we heard the same sentiments from Kristi Lauren Glakas, three-time Miss Virginia. She was a clever woman, and she quickly told us how upset she was about Pfotenhauer's comments on northern Virginia. Kristi coined a phrase: "What the Pf---?" She was frustrated by the McCain campaign, especially Sarah Palin, quipping that "even I have been interviewed by Chris Matthews." The next morning we met her early before her nursing class, and I took a portrait of her with her crown.

Miss Virginia, Charlottesville - BrettMarty.com  Ablemarle County, Virginia - BrettMarty.com

Sean had gone to law school at UVA, so we loaded up on bagels from Bodo's and headed through the burning trees of the Blue Ridge Parkway, toward the remote corner of soutwest Virginia, Big Stone Gap. It was clearly Republican territory. The "Welcome to Russell County" sign was accented by a large McCain billboard and one for Obama. The Obama sign was spray painted with a giant black X. It didn't discourage anybody, as we found an Obama office in the center of downtown Big Stone Gap.

We left town and crossed the border into North Carolina and stopped in Statesville at a cafe that had been an Obama office during the primaries. It began to snow tiny flakes that could only been seen under streetlights or passing headlights before they melted in the air.

Virginia Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: North Carolina ::

Wilmington, North Carolina - BrettMarty.com

We got to Charlotte the next day. A stop in at the Obama office on Elizabeth St. made us feel pretty good about the state. We chatted with one of the canvass trainers; he recommended an early voting location. We meandered down there to see the hour-plus-long lines of folks waiting to vote early. A large percentage of them were black, and they seemed very enthusiastic to be there, despite the long lines.

Early Vote; Raleigh, North Carolina - BrettMarty.com  Wrightsville Beach - BrettMarty.com

In Cary, we got a tip about an early vote march led by some cast members of The Wire. Since both Sean and I love the show, the next morning we headed to Martin Luther King Gardens in Raleigh. We got a few minutes to hang out with the cast after they kicked off the march. Pumped up, the crowd marched the three-quarters of a mile to the early voting location down the road, waving banners and chanting Obama's name. We left the march in high spirits and traveled down I-40 to Wilmington, where we finally met the Atlantic. We passed a road sign that read "Barstow 2,554 Miles." We had begun our journey six weeks prior on the other end of I-40, only it took us 9,539 miles to get to the other end. When I drove my Buick to the tip of South America last year, it took seven months to drive 16,864 miles, and we'll get close to that number by the end of eight weeks. As the sun set I took a few photos on the beach, and we headed in to check out the Obama office. The McCain office closed at 5.

The election clock was ticking, and the next morning we headed deep into Florida as quickly as we could.

North Carolina Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

:: Florida ::

South Beach, Miami - BrettMarty.com

Florida. 10,590 miles to where I am now; Tampa. Our 13th battleground state. We finally made it to a McCain rally. He was escorted by all of his cronies: Lieberman, Ridge, and Crist. It was a Joe the Plumber event, and most of the signage was relatively negative. Two Cuban-American Obama supporters held up yard signs across the street, and the McCain supporters, smelling blood in the water, quickly mobbed them. They shouted "Socialist!" "Terrorist!" "Communist!" I got there in time to take a few photos as the police escorted the two to safety. We spoke with them afterwards, and Raul Sorando told us several people had shouted death threats before the police escorted him away. It was really ugly.

South Beach, Miami - BrettMarty.com  McCain Rally; Miami, Florida - BrettMarty.com

Our first McCain rally, and I was left with the impression that McCain's security is rather light. I was allowed to go near him on stage after the event and follow him to his car. After I took a picture of McCain getting into his SUV, I found myself standing next to Gov. Charlie Crist, who had the day previous extended the voting hours to 12 hours per day. He looked at me with a noticeable twinkle in his eye, "Hey fella." When I reported the exchange to Sean, he laughed and laughed. If Crist weren't a married man, I would've been a little suspicious myself.

McCain Rally; Miami, Florida - BrettMarty.com  McCain Rally; Miami, Florida - BrettMarty.com

After the event we got some Cuban food at Versailles and headed to a nearby McCain office. Then South Beach for some photos. We stopped by a pair of offices on our way out of town and drove up the coast to Kissimmee for the Obama rally with President Clinton. Afterwards, we sprinted back to our car to avoid a massive logjam of traffic and sped up the highway through the night. We met the esteemed Al Giordano from The Field at an Irish pub in Tampa. After a few pints, I launched into my unscientific predictions of what will happen on election day. Sean and Al chortled and suggested I publish my 10 predictions for election day, straight from the gut. But, you know, I'm just a photographer.

We headed to bed extremely late and got up early. Three days and 1,700 miles to go.

See you in Chicago.

Florida Gallery - BrettMarty.com

For prints of any photographs, click here.

Originally posted to Brett Marty on Sat Nov 01, 2008 at 01:43 PM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.