PHILADELPHIA, PA--The Obama volunteers don't yet blend into the scenery in lower Northeast Philadelphia. At the intersection of a variety of lower-income white, black, and Latino neighborhoods, it's still a land of dollar-a-beer bars and used appliance stores. The signage advertises improbable establishments like the Rock and Roll Exxon or Old London Pizza or No-Cost Diabetic Footware. Gentrification is creeping in. But not fast enough to account for all those healthy looking young people in stylish eyeware hanging out in front of the Police Athletic League or Luke's Back Room bar. For them, you can thank the magnetism of one Barack Obama.

The Obama-ite outside Luke's is sharing the day with local Democratic and Republican committee people. Both of them note that he looks a lot more like the kind of guy who would frequent Memphis Taproom, the area's first gastropub, purveyor of craft beers and artisanal onion rings. "The newcomers, they're the ones who are supporting Obama," says Steven Suarez, a Democrat who works for a lumber distributor and grew up nearby. "A lot of the others are elder people, and they're set in their ways, and they won't vote for Obama." Inside, the bar can't open until eight, though that doesn't stop one voter--a relative of the owners, he says--from reaching behind it for a Coke. On the wall, there are velvet portraits of Sinatra and of two pigs humping. A Democratic state legislative candidate, Harry Engasser, ambles by with his own theory on voting in the neighborhood. Engasser posits a reverse Bradley effect: "A lot of people will play like they're voting for McCain, like they don't like Obama," he says. "But when they go in the booth, they'll vote green." He pulls out a wad of bills from his pocket, wrapped in a rubber band, to make his point.

A few neighborhoods up, green motivates people the other way, says Dan Murray, a Republican who's just voted in the garage of his neighbor, retired saloonkeeper Bill Mullen. "Obama is at best a socialist and at worst a communist," he says, citing "spread the wealth," among other sins.

At the Masjid Al-Furqan, a former union hall that kept on hosting elections when its occupant changed, Abdul Majid, a leader of the mosque, has laid out a cover over the prayer rug on the room's floor. Ruth DiCicco, a Democratic committeeperson at the poll, says turnout is way up, and she thinks the old-school neighbors are going her way, too, despite the efforts, a few polling places away, of one of the few GOP paid street workers we've encountered. The poll worker is a young African-American man. He made $75 for a day's work. Was he a Republican? No. How'd he vote? "I'd rather not say." Ditto his name. So why was he out here? "I've gotta eat," he said, grinning. He hands me a sample ballot for McCain, Palin, and a host of smaller-time candidates. Such ballots have been the standard stuff of election-day tomfoolery, and this year is no exception. At the traditional election-day lunch gathering of local politicos and hangers-on at the Famous Fourth Street Deli, a union operative shows me a couple samples that apparently made it to the streets of South Philadelphia. One is a Democratic ballot with the presidential nominee's name left blank; another features a local Democratic state house candidate's name under the McCain-Palin line. The electricians' union is countering with its own pro-Obama punch, handing out 5,000 MP3 players pre-loaded with statements from union and political officials in favor of the Democratic nominee. "Vote Your Job," the machine's exterior reads.

And after watching Americans exercise the franchise in a mosque, it's only appropriate to move on to ... a roller skating rink. The Elmwood Roller Rink, back in the city's Southwest Quadrant, is home to one of the few integrated polls in the city. "We're like the United Nations," says Linda Callan, 57, a Democrat who voted for Obama. "There's black, there's white, there's oriental, there's even Indian, with the saris." The total number of registered voters in the division is around 580. By late afternoon, 300 have already voted. "I bet 298 of them were Obama," she says. Among them is owner Ernest "Puff" Edwards, who grew up near Callan and has worked at the rink since he was a kid. "People are just so much more excited" this year, he says. "They're more enthusiastic than I've ever seen."

--Michael Schaffer