Edinburgh, Indiana -- "I don't get it," Jim says from the next bar stool, "what's this crap about a certain number needed to win or lose an election? I thought that was what counting the votes was about?"
The bar, in southern rural Indiana, has half-wall wood paneling, lots of beer signs and posters, chairs and tables behind a long wooden bar with brass rail and several television sets hanging on the walls. Not a dive, but certainly not unique. Just another Midwest bar.
"You have to understand that the job of the media is to create confusion," I say. "We take the clear-cut and screw it up beyond recognition. If we didn't, then you people would never read us. We have to mangle this stuff to keep your attention."
"As I was saying, tonight Hillary must win by more than 5 percentage points in Indiana, otherwise she loses. In North Carolina Obama must win by 10 points, or he loses."
Bob serves in the Indiana National Guard, in three weeks he will be in Germany, then he will move on to Kosovo for 10 months. Down the bar on a wide-screen is a basketball game, a few stools away two guys grumble about gas prices and the dismal economy and their wives. As a concession to the campaign-addicted (me), Billy the bartender is allowing CNN on one television. Jim seems to be tolerating my addiction without serious problems.
"With less than 1 percent of the vote in," Wolf Blitzer suddenly announces on the TV, "Hillary Clinton has 66 percent of the vote and Barack Obama has 33 percent."
"Another Jim Beam with Dr. Pepper," I scream to Billy down the bar. He's not happy that I interrupted his basketball game.
"I'm surprised only 20 percent chose the war in Iraq as the top issue," a CNN announcer growls. The economy is the top issue for 66 percent of the people in Indiana and 60 percent in North Carolina, easily topping concern for the Iraq War.
"We're only about 15 minutes before the polls close in Indiana --"
"I don't give a damn about nothing," country music blares from the speakers, "I saddle up my horse --"
"Three percent of the precincts have reported," Wolf Blitzer says, "61 percent for Hillary Clinton and 39 percent for Barack Obama."
"-- save a horse, ride a cowboy--" the speakers say.
"The polls have closed in Indiana, in all of Indiana" Wolff announces. "We have projected, based on our -- "
"Yes, spit it out Wolff!" I scream.
"-- the race is too early to project a winner."