Backstage with Obama Omen

November 3, 2008

I made my last donation to Barack Obama last night. Not that he needs the cash at this stage of his campaign, a fund-raising juggernaut that politicians and political scientists will study for years to come. My wife and I have made modest donations six or seven times. With victory appearing all but certain, this was the first motivated purely out of selfishness.

Donating by midnight put me in a drawing. The prize: an expense-paid trip for two to be among ten people backstage with the next president of the United States at his campaign headquarters in Chicago on Election Night.

Imagining that possibility, seeing Suzame and me with Obama and his family, was too much to resist. It also seemed like a good luck omen, as was the purchase of an Obama painting Friday. (The painting, displayed in our home office window, is getting many smiles and words of praise from passersby.) Such omens, though irrational, ease the intensifying tension as we reach the campaign’s end.

The first omen on this long quest came last fall when we heard Obama speak in Portland. After the speech, Suzame and I clambered over rows of folding chairs and shook his hand. Since then we’ve joked often about not washing our right hands until he wins.

It was the second time I had shaken a presidential candidate’s hand. The first was in 1972, the year I graduated from college. At a rope line on a downtown Atlanta street, George McGovern clasped my hand and smiled. Neither of us realized I was jinxing him — his campaign went downhill from there.

Tuesday the handshake jinx ends. The only question is when my phone will ring today with news that I’ve won the drawing. Chicago, here we come!