It was a face-off between Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Thursday night. The two debated on the campus of UT Austin, touching on controversial subjects like universal healthcare, immigration reform and of course the war in Iraq. Friday the candidates were still in Texas, campaigning.
And the latest CNN poll shows the two neck-in-neck with Clinton 44 percent of likely Democratic voters and Obama with 43 percent. On the Republican side, John McCain is the clear frontrunner with 49 percent, Mike Huckabee trailing with 30 percent and Ron Paul, 8 percent.
Those polls don't include early voting numbers, but Smith County voters are making sure they have their say. The door to the Smith County Annex building is in constant motion, as voter after voter takes their turn at the polls, coming out in record numbers.
For Smith County Republicans, on the first day of voting in 2004, 454 showed up. This year it was 857. That's almost twice as much.
But in 2004, only 62 Smith County Democrats voted on the first day. This year, it was 782. That's 12 times as much!
"They're angry and they're immobilized now," says Smith County Democratic Party Chair David Henderson.
He says more Democrats are turning out this year, wanting change.
"I've had people tell me George Bush has made a Democrat out of me again after 20 years," he adds.
"It's reflective of the candidates that we have running, Obama and Clinton both are excellent candidates, and I think people are excited," says Democrat and Tyler resident Jerry Stine.
The majority of voters we spoke to outside the polls were Democrats with their own theories.
"We're tired of Bush," laughs Democrat and Tyler resident Nancy Jenkins. "I'm tired of Bush and his flip flopping and I think we need a Democrat."
Even one man, a Republican, said he voted Democrat this year.
"I can see that the people are unhappy with regime in there, the Republicans are supposed to be here for the people, or any elected official and I don't think this president has done that," says Chuck Amason. "I think people are looking for some change."
But the Smith County Republican Party, says crossover voting, can be a strategy to winning, specifically voting against Hillary Clinton.
"A lot of people are wanting to strike and get her out of the race now as opposed to waiting till November, I don't know if that's a good strategy or not," says Marcia Daughtrey, Smith County Republican Party Chair.
Either way, Smith County Democrats are giving Republicans a run for their money this year, showing up just as strong in the polls.
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