I don’t know Gary Johnson, but he sounded as if he knows me.
He called at the office during the weekend to urge me to vote.
“Every vote is going to count in this election,” he intoned to my voice mail. “Five percent is all we need to change American politics forever.”
Johnson is a third-party maverick running for president of the United States, on the Libertarian Party ticket. He used to be governor of New Mexico. I have seen and heard him in a couple of interviews, and he seemed self-effacing and funny, if a bit nutty. As interesting as I find the idea of making a huge difference, I don’t have the slightest intention of voting for him.
Yet his call, in some odd way, seemed to crystallize the frenetic nature of the final weekend of this wild campaign season. Thanks to a tight presidential race and a taut Senate race, things were at a fever pitch. New England’s special passion for politics was evident all weekend. Even an obscure third-party candidate was trolling for last-minute votes.
There was President Obama with Bill Clinton in New Hampshire Sunday, at the beginning of a day that would take the president to five states. Our former governor, Mitt Romney, was in Portsmouth Saturday, and will effectively wind up his campaign in Manchester Monday. As is often the case, a campaign that began in New Hampshire will close there, with the state still up for grabs in the final 48 hours.
“I am not ready to give up the fight, and I hope you aren’t, either, New Hampshire,” Obama told the crowd in Concord, after a fiery introduction by Clinton. “We have come too far to turn back now. We have come too far to let our hearts grow faint.” Obama will find out soon whether his affection for the Granite State is reciprocated.
For other candidates, too, a year of campaigning was coming down to a frantic late sprint. Sunday, Scott Brown was with Bill Weld and Ray Flynn, Elizabeth Warren was with John Kerry, and the congressional candidates were out in force. The sprint to the finish had begun earlier, of course; Warren was in Roxbury Saturday with civil rights legend John Lewis.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could be undecided at this point, but if you are, some candidate would gladly buy you a sandwich and make his or her pitch.
I called a veteran campaign strategist and asked who was going to win the Senate race. “I’m pretty confident it’s going to be close,” was his bold prediction. “Other than that, who knows?”
Every election is said to be fraught with consequences, and this is no exception. The Senate race may well have begun to break Warren’s way when voters began to absorb the notion that one of the issues at stake was Republican control of the Senate.
So what have we learned on the way to the ballot box?
This intriguing campaign has seen Obama surge, falter badly, and slowly bounce back. After a terrible summer, Romney found his footing in this campaign, closing the gap that even some Republicans believed was slipping from his grasp in August. We have seen the inept Romney — the one who struggles to connect with people, the one who seems to have endlessly malleable positions. And we have also seen the impressive Romney who thinks on his feet, solves problems, and never stops competing.
We have learned that, win or lose Tuesday, Brown’s popularity in Massachusetts is real. Meanwhile, Warren has also proved that a political neophyte — a very talented and accomplished one — can rally Democrats against a well-liked Republican. Indeed, being a new face is an asset now, a lesson we should have learned from the rise of Deval Patrick.
Finally, this campaign has been a reminder that people in our part of the country retain their insatiable love of politics and government. This isn’t a place where everyone tunes in at the last minute. The crowds this weekend were big, and they cared. No matter who wins, that could only be a heartening sight.