A MIDDLE-AGED man walking his Labrador near Belmont University pointed to his dog and said: “He’s for Obama, too.”
Across the street, about 20 youths cheered and whistled as they waved placards declaring “Peace, Love, No War” and “Nashville Loves Obama”.
One young woman kept twirling a hula-hoop while like-minded fans of Democratic candidate Barack Obama honked to show their support as they drove past.
Meanwhile, John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” campaign has been zooming around town the past few days.
Nashville “swayed to the beat of politics” as local paper The Tennessean described it; Music City was playing host to thousands of campaign staff and journalists who arrived for the second presidential debate on Tuesday.
Belmont University, delighted to be picked as the venue, held almost 100 forums and seminars to mark the occasion.
Two 14-year-old girls carried a sign saying they were “Future Adults for Obama”.
Asked why they supported him, Hannah Zinder ventured a tentative: “Uhh ... ermm ... because he is going to end the war?”
Music and partying aside, Nashville, with a major healthcare industry, also got down to serious business.
Experts felt that healthcare, long an expensive and complex issue in the United States, has been side-stepped somewhat amid concerns over the financial meltdown.
“Money for healthcare went out of the window last week,” said Dick Morris, a former adviser to Bill Clin-ton and now a Fox News contributor, referring to the US$700bil (RM2.4tril) bailout plan. He believed that there would always be political will for any healthcare reform, “but no financial will for it”.
“We are in for at least three or four years of recession,” he said during a panel discussion hosted by the Nashville Healthcare Council.
Healthcare, according to the panel, was going up two or three times the rate of inflation and wages. It felt both healthcare plans by McCain and Obama had their flaws, but acknowledged that no one plan was perfect.
John Podesta, who once served as chief of staff to Bill Clinton and is now president for Centre for Ame-rican Progress, noted that Obama’s idea would be very expensive to carry out and would not provide care for everyone.
“Under McCain, Americans would be at the mercy of insurance companies,” he said. “Both are not plans that can be acted upon.”
Besides the panel, almost 100 student leaders from 50 universities met for a healthcare leadership conference on Monday.
They came under the banner of SHOUTAmerica, a new non-profit, non-partisan organisation aimed at educating young Americans and promoting dialogue in a “search for sustainable solutions to the impending healthcare crisis”.
According to them, the United States would spend up to US$2.4tril on healthcare this year, and much more on food or housing.
“Between 2000 and 2007, he said, health insurance premiums rose 98%,” said its executive director Landon Gibbs.
The conference also noted that US President George W. Bush never made healthcare reform a big priority in his campaign.
According to these experts, healthcare remains the defining issue of the 2008 campaign for the White House.
The topic also came up during the presidential debate at Belmont Uni-versity, reflecting Americans’ anxiety over rising costs.
Still, they conceded that the healthcare issue was not something that could be easily fixed, unlike a mechanic in Nashville whose garage sign read: “We repair what your husband fixed.”