Either Senator Obama's internal polls are showing something we don't know, or someone is playing a halloween trick. Why else would the Democratic Presidential hopeful take time out to make a Halloween stop in this most solid of Democratic bastions?
Marcus McKenzie, 13, with a picture of his doppelganger
Actually, it is Greenhouse School seventh grader Marcus McKenzie, who came in dressed as Obama for the usual Halloween activities at the independent preK-8th school in Salem, MA. "Being in Salem and it being Halloween, we always try to get in on the fun," says Director Dan Welch.
The small school always has its annual Halloween Parade up and down Loring Avenue, and traditional Halloween festivities back at school. "We make a day of it--everyone dresses up, including the teachers," says Assistant Director Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde.
The "Senator" even offered to help with decorations
"It was perfect," says Welch, who is also Nambalirwa-Lugudde's husband. "He's at that age where they get self-consious about wearing a costume. So it's really just Marcus in a suit." Except, of course, that the lanky teenager, of Mexican, Irish and Jamaican descent, is the spitting image of his older Senate counterpart. "We couldn't resist," says Nambalirwa-Lugudde. "All we added was the beauty mark."
School officials are tighter-lipped about the election itself, though their proclivities are well known. "Obviously, we don't take an official position as a school." He admits, however, that both he and his wife share a belief in the need for sweeping change, beyond what the Democrat is proposing. "We deal with a lot of low- and moderate income families," says Welch, "for whom the system doesn't work so well."
"ObaMcKenzie" gives a rousing speech to schoolmates
It's a guess, Welch says, but he bets that the overwhelming majority of parents at the school will vote for Obama. "I suppose a few may vote for Nader," he adds, "but I haven't seen a McCain sticker yet."
As for McKenzie, he won't say much either. Aides to the real Senator talk of "No Drama Obama," in reference to his unflappable demeanor. "Right down to the peronality!" says Nambalirwa-Lugudde, who has taught McKenzie for 12 years. "He's a very steady guy." He finally admits he likes not having to wear a mask, and the fact that Obama is African American. "Oh, and he's leading in the polls."
The nattily dressed young man is asked by Ms. Julia if he can run to the kitchen and bring back snack. "Yes, I can!" he bellows in the most Obama-like voice he can muster, echoing the candidate's now-famous campaign line. He smiles broadly: except for the braces, it could well be the junior Senator from Illinois. For more info on The Greenhouse School, visit http://www.greenhouseschool.org