Super Tuesday: Street Team ’08 Braved Tornadoes, Traffic To Report From The Ground

Our citizen journalists brought us video and blog reports from the 23 states that participated in the biggest presidential-primary day in history.

Some were up before dawn to fire up their laptops and cell phones. They drove through storms, 4-degree temperatures and traffic to get to polling sites and campaign offices. They risked the embarrassment of testing out fancy new equipment in front of the whole country. And our Street Team ’08 citizen journalists did it all to bring you a fresh perspective from the ground in all 23 states holding presidential primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday (February 5).

The reporters were given Nokia N95 video phones powered by Flixwagon, which streams their video directly to their blogs at Think.MTV.com. Of course, that meant that a few upside-down and sideways posts offered a little comic relief to start this oh-so-important day. Then they got down to serious business.

Christine Begay packed everything you’ve ever wanted to know about New Mexico’s Democratic caucus into a slick three-minute video.

Meanwhile, Megan Budnick had trouble finding Connecticut students who weren’t apathetic or ill-informed. She even talked to one girl who thought Barack Obama was sworn into the Senate on the Koran.

Alex Parker covered an unprecedented caucus turnout at a Kansas fairground, which some attributed to Obama’s campaign. As one participant explained it, “We heard about Reagan Democrats for a number of years. I think we may be seeing the beginning of the Obama Republicans tonight.”

“The polling locations are a little quiet on a rainy morning here in Alabama on Super Tuesday,” wrote David Whiteside in his Street Team blog. He was a little concerned that the severe weather and possible tornadoes forecasted for the afternoon would scare away voters from the polls.

Georgia reporter Shelby Highsmith had better luck, visiting a bar where two Hillary Clinton supporters and a John McCain supporter were celebrating Mardi Gras in perfect harmony. He did, however, report waits of up to two hours at some Atlanta polling locations.

Arizona Street Teamer Nicole Fagin observed “Obama fever” around the University of Arizona campus, but Republicans only had eyes for their hometown senator. “I heard murmurings of Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, but mostly everyone favored McCain,” Fagin wrote.

Drama was even more intense in Illinois, where Jacqueline Ingles had news of election judges engaged in fisticuffs over a procedural dispute. Area voters were having a bad run of luck, as severe weather had closed both of the state’s major airports and preoccupied many residents with the threat of flooding.

“Lobbyists have not persuaded Ron [Paul] to vote against what he stands for,” one supporter told Utah reporter Charles Geraci, who spoke to several Paul fans during an afternoon of sign-waving.

Despite the thunder and hail, Jill Penuel found some enthusiastic voters on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, where clever student volunteers offered golf-cart rides to classes and polling places, as well as free donuts and coffee, which should make the weather more bearable. In Delaware, Stephanie Woods found a group of Barack Obama supporters who were organizing van rides to the polls for students, no matter which candidate they preferred.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, Patrick Kennedy visited the Dunbar neighborhood polling station where Bill Clinton cast his vote for president in 1992. “This morning, in one of Little Rock’s lowest-income areas, Dunbar has proved predominantly pro-Obama,” Kennedy wrote. “Even with Hillary signs and supporters littering the streets, the voters who said they ‘love Bill Clinton,’ picked Obama.”

Sia Nyorkor in New Jersey planned a busy day of visiting polling sites in Camden and Princeton, “one of the poorest and one of the richest cities respectively,” and following Rutgers University Camden law students as they observe the elections. She was already giving her Nokia quite a workout before 6 a.m., so you can see her day in elaborate detail.

In Nashville, Dustin Ogdin visited the campus of Tennessee State University, where he met Gloria, a student who said she was planning to vote in a few hours but still couldn’t decide between Clinton and Obama. “It is a big issue with black women, whether we want to [vote for] a woman or an African-American. … I would love to see a joint ticket.”

Ogdin observed something interesting at TSU, an historically black university: “For­ anyone­ who­ thinks­ that­ African-Americans­ are­ voting­ as­ a­ single­ monolithic bloc,­ my­ interviews­ with­ students­ seemed­ to­ indicate­ otherwise,” he wrote in his blog. “While­ a­ majority­ of­ the­ students­ I­ spoke­ with­ seemed­ to­ be­ leaning­ towards­ Barack­ Obama,­ I­ spoke­ with­ several­ African-American­ men­ and­ women­ who­ indicated­ they­ were­ supporting­ Senator­ Clinton.­”

Eligible voters thinking about sitting this one out should take a look at the videos from Missouri reporter Steven Smith for inspiration. He visited Oakville High School in St. Louis, where students (most of whom aren’t yet 18) were excitedly participating in a mock election.

Trevor Martin in Colorado spoke to self-described fiscal conservative Rob, a 17-year-old who said he’s “kind of frustrated there isn’t a Republican who’s pro-abortion or a little more relaxed on gay marriage.” Later, Martin heard from some high school students who had a chance to sit down with Congressman Mark Udall and talk about the issues affecting them. “We have to go find information, really search for it, and we hear more information about Britney Spears than the war in Iraq,” one student said.

Martin interviewed more than just student voters in his state. Last week, he spoke to actor Forest Whitaker about why he’s campaigning for Obama. And since the Colorado caucus decides the ballot for other races, Martin talked to Jared Polis, a 32-year-old openly gay man running for Boulder’s congressional district.

To help clarify the sometimes-confusing election process for first-time voters, Montana Street Team member K’Lynn Sloan spoke to Missoula County Republican Central Committee Chair Will Deschamps, who explained how that state’s caucus vote would occur.

Republicans are a little harder to find in New York, but Sara Benincasa discovered a family of Mike Huckabee supporters smack in the middle of Times Square. “He’s the most experienced candidate, and I met him at a cocktail party and he seemed like a nice guy,” said Peter. Of course, there was no shortage of Obama supporters willing to talk to Benincasa, either. After a morning full of man-on-the-street interviews, Benincasa took time out to appear on “TRL,” so you can see her footage from behind-the-scenes of the show.

Out on the West Coast, California’s Carl Brown said he was having a hard time finding people to interview who weren’t Obama supporters in the Bay area, but he promised to hunt down a diverse representations of voters in his hotly contested state.

Massachusetts Street Teamer Kyle de Beausset did manage to get a rather different perspective on the election from Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, a member of the Green-Rainbow Party. “Unfortunately, I think there is an unwillingness to look at the issues that are confronting the people of this country,” Turner said, who voted for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney.

In North Dakota, Emily Catalano visited an event where Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (a former presidential candidate himself) stumped for John McCain. She also roamed the campus of the University of Mary, where she found Democratic voters in the mostly Republican state. “While a number of students said they were still undecided about who they wanted to vote for, one young voter, 20-year-old Sara, a law student, said she was excited to vote for Hillary Clinton because of her universal health care plan,” Catalano wrote. “As someone who has had health problems, Sara said she’s worried about what is going to happen to her after she’s off her parent’s health insurance in two years.”

Check back here for more updates from Street Team ’08 as Super Tuesday unfolds.

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[This story was originally published at 2:25 p.m. ET on 2.5.2008]