By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 11/6/2006 3:39:38 PM ET 2006-11-06T20:39:38

MSNBC.com’s Tom Curry files dispatches from three different states in the final hours of the 2006 campaign.

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Chester County Republican Headquarters
15 South Church St.
West Chester, Pa
Monday Nov. 6, 2 pm
As Chester County goes, so goes the nation? Well, just maybe. This sprawling exurban-suburban county southwest of Philadelphia is the kind of place where Republicans absolutely must do well tomorrow, if they are to hold their congressional majorities and especially if they are to save Santorum.

President Bush won Chester County in 2004 with 52 percent, and a margin of 10,000 votes.

Specter did even better: 60 percent and a margin of more than 50,000.

This year Chester County is focus of one of the nation’s crucial House races: Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach’s struggle to defeat Democrat Lois Murphy.

Chester County is Gerlach’s bastion: 60 percent of the county is in his district.

That’s why I’m here to seek out volunteers such as Marilyn O’Bryan of Landenberg, Pa, who has stopped by the GOP office in downtown West Chester to pick up her “poll striker” list: as voters come in tomorrow to cast their ballots in her assigned precinct, she will strike off their names. O’Bryan will work the 6:30am to 3pm shift.

By late afternoon, party operatives will know from her list and other like it exactly which GOP laggards still need to be rousted up and gotten to the polls.

“I’ve never volunteered before,” O’Bryan told me. She enlisted after going to a reception for Santorum on Saturday night. She’d never met Santorum before Saturday. “I told him I admired him and be in him and told that we wanted to him to victory,” she said.

“The top issues for me are the war on terror and taxes,” she said. She is and an ex-DuPont manager, now retired.

Upstairs on the second floor of the storefront office, Paula Gowen, registrar of wills in Chester County, is busily working down a list of names and phone numbers of reliable GOP voters.

At 15 names on a page, she’ll work through 65 to 75 calls in her afternoon stint.

Gowen said at this late stage her calls are mostly a matter of reminding loyal GOP voters where the polling place is – and yes, that the election is tomorrow.

I called Lois Murphy’s press spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus to see if I can drop in to their Montgomery County storefront office in Narberth, Pa., but she said the volunteers are all out in the field, preparing the harvest of votes.

Heading north on Route 202 in Chester County, Pennsylvania
Monday, Nov. 6, 1:39 pm
Maybe you thought Rick Santorum was a conservative?

On all-news radio station KYW, I hear the familiar voice of Pennsylvania’s senior senator, Arlen Specter, in a radio ad for Sen. Rick Santorum.

“I would appreciate it if you would consider the Rick Santorum I have come to know for the last 12 years,” Specter says.

“Rick is a lot more open to moderate legislation than his critics admit," Specter argues. "He has cosponsored with me using federal funds for stem cell research.” That is, adult stem cell and cord blood research, a nicety Specter does not explain in the radio spot.

Specter, for whom Santorum campaigned in his 2004 primary battle against conservative Pat Toomey, is returning the favor. “If you knew Rick like I know him, you would vote for him next Tuesday,” Specter says in the ad.

Vienna, Va.
Monday, Nov. 6, 7:15 am
At the Vienna Metro station in Fairfax County, Virginia, hundreds of anxious, sleepy-eyed commuters were trying to get on the subway and take their 40-minute ride to work in D.C.

But the problem was the politicians and sign-carrying campaign volunteers for both Sen. George Allen and his Democratic challenger Jim Webb forced commuters to run the gauntlet.

Were the candidates winning voters here or losing them?

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., stationed at the entry to the Metro station with a gaggle of supporters toting “Tom Davis for Congress” signs, testily told an aide, “We’re just pissing people off. Move some of those (sign carrying supporters)” away from the entrance” to the Metro.

Adding to the circus were TV camera crews, reporters, and “Code Pink” anti-Iraq war protestors chanting “Vote for Peace! Vote for Peace!”

After Allen arrived at 7:15, a minor riot ensued. He was swarmed by the television crews, by his supporters, and by anti-Allen zealots.

A shouting match followed with one angry Democrat screaming in Allen’s face, “Macaca! Macaca!” and “the soldiers hate you, the soldiers hate you!” as Allen tried to do an interview a local TV reporter.

“My opponent’s point of view is that we ought to be treating and surrendering from Iraq,” Allen told the TV interviewer.

At one point in the shoving, Allen was hit in the back with a placard and nearly knocked over. He kept his composure and gamely carried on.

“Adjustments need to be made, adaptations in tactics, but the strategic goal remains the same: that is Iraq is an ally not an enemy in the war on terror,” Allen told the TV cameras, struggling to be heard over the chanting behind him.

“The world is controlled by those who show up and the voters are going to have to show up tomorrow,” he told me as he left the Metro station. “Everyone is working really hard; calling people to show up make sure they vote.”

“I’m confident we’re going to be victorious because people don’t want their taxes to go up,” Allen said, “People do realize immigration needs to be fixed – I also think people care about foundational values such as the family.”

Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County, Md.
Sunday, Nov. 5,
10:45 pm
No Democratic speaker in the 2006 campaign – not Ambassador Joe Wilson, not John Edwards, not even Sen. Barack Obama – has done  what Bill Clinton did at Sunday night’s Democratic rally in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Clinton caused a sensation, a joyous emotional outburst of nostalgia. About 4,000 fervent Democrats showed up for the Clinton-Cardin-O’Malley rally and all of them seemed to want to go back to 1996, or any other point in the Clinton presidency.

Adding a poignant historical note was the presence of a woman standing on the platform with Clinton and the elected Democratic officials. Clinton made a particular point of introducing her to the crowd: Betty Currie, his former White House secretary, who became famous during the Monica Lewinsky episode by arranging her visits with Clinton in the Oval Office.

The most fervent cheers came not for Cardin, nor for O’Malley. They came when Clinton stepped on stage, looking pale, but still larger than life, and larger than any of the politicians assembled on the platform with him.

And whenever a speaker referred to the Clinton presidency, the crowd erupted in raucous applause.

When Clinton said, “I came back to Maryland – you’ve been good to me, you voted for me twice,” the crowd exploded again in frenzied cheers.

It seems almost contrary to the laws of political nature that this politician with such crowd-pleasing gifts will never again be on any ballot again for his party.

But his role now is a surrogate: He came in Sunday night to bolster O’Malley and Cardin who in the new Mason-Dixon MSNBC poll Sunday were tied with their Republican opponents, Ehrlich and Steele.

It was Clinton’s second trip to shore up Cardin and O’Malley in the past few weeks.

“I want to thank President Clinton for coming back to Maryland two times,” Cardin told the crowd. “President Clinton knows it is high stakes this Tuesday in Maryland. Maryland is one of half dozen states on Tuesday that will determine the future direction of our country.”

“If you believe the Iraq war is wrong, there’s a candidate who voted against it four years ago,” Cardin said, referring to himself. The crowd burst out in applause, but Clinton kept his hands at his sides.

Referring to Steele, Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson told the rally that Prince George’s County voters would not vote for  him or other black Republicans simply “because they look like us.”

Glenn Dale, Md.
Sunday, Nov. 5, 6:30 pm
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was here to boost Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, in a tight race with Democratic Martin O’Malley, the mayor of Baltimore.

The crowd: a small (200) but excited group of firefighters, police officers and their families. Giuliani gave the standard stump speech that he’s been delivering all over the country on behalf of GOP candidates, warning that Democrats wanted to turn back the clock and pretend Sept. 11 never happened.

“I support people who have learned the lessons of Sept. 11 and the lessons of Sept. 11 are: never ever again on defense; we have to be on offense in the war on terrorism!”

Ehrlich told the crowd that “miracles happen” and cited his endorsement by the mostly liberal editorial page of the Washington Post. “We’ll take it,” he said.

Temple Hills, Md.
Sunday Nov. 5, 11:00 am
Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele showed up at the 11 am service at the Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland to pay tribute to Rev. Eric Redmond who was celebrating his five-year anniversary as pastor.

The 500 or so mostly African-American congregants gave Steele a polite, but not overly enthusiastic welcome.

This is a key battleground for Steele in his quest to defeat Democrat Ben Cardin.

Hillcrest Baptist Church is in Prince George’s County, Steele’s home county.

Prince George’s, with a two-thirds African-American population, is the state's second-biggest source of Democratic votes.

Steele told me a few weeks ago that he hopes to get 35 percent of the vote in the county, about 15 points better than GOP candidates historically have performed.

Redmond’s introduction of Steele to the congregation was all that the candidate would’ve wanted: praising his work to launch charter schools and his efforts to get the state to re-think the death penalty and especially the racial disparities in how it is imposed.

Redmond told the congregation that Steele had been brought to the church “by a coalition of Democrats that we know and trust,” including Camille Exum, the vice chair the county council.

Last week, respected Democratic African-American leaders, such as former county executive Wayne Curry Steele, endorsed Steele.

Steele gave a brief non-political speech praising Redmond’s pastoral work.

It’s unnerving to Democrats that the Steele might have a chance of beating Cardin, and that his ethnicity (Steele is African-American) might be a decisive advantage for him. About 25 percent of the electorate in Maryland is black.

Afterwards on the front steps of Hillcrest Baptist, Steele told me, “The polls aren’t reflecting actually what’s going on, on the ground, and what’s happening in the community… It is something different and something special and it’s not getting picked up the polls. I think we’re going to surprise some people Tuesday.”

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