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Obama wins St. Petersburg barbershop's poll

Bill Lane of St. Petersburg gets a haircut Thursday from Pedro Holladay, owner of Pedro’s Tonsorial Parlor. The shop has a tradition of hosting mock elections. This year, its clients sided with Barack Obama.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Bill Lane of St. Petersburg gets a haircut Thursday from Pedro Holladay, owner of Pedro’s Tonsorial Parlor. The shop has a tradition of hosting mock elections. This year, its clients sided with Barack Obama.

If you think John McCain might have a problem winning Florida on Tuesday, consider this — he's losing older, wealthier white men to Barack Obama.

At least that's the finding in one poll.

For the past 20 years, Pedro's Tonsorial Parlor, a men's barbershop in downtown St. Petersburg, has set up a makeshift ballot box for a mock poll during presidential elections and for some state balloting.

The barbershop, in the Bank of America Tower, tends to attract middle-aged to older white professionals.

"We get a lot of lawyers, doctors, some stockbrokers and CEOs," said shop owner Clyde "Pedro" Holladay.

His poll successfully picked Bush to win Florida in 2000 and 2004, and the parlor tends to attract a more Republican crowd. However this year, that was not the case.

"The vote was 112 for Obama to 87 for McCain," Holladay said. "I'm actually kind of surprised, considering our clientele, but pleasantly surprised." Holladay is an Obama supporter.

"The poll hasn't picked a Democrat since Lawton Chiles for governor in 1990," added Don Fowler, an employee at Pedro's. "It went against Clinton in 1996 and in '92."

Recent talk at the parlor has been more heavily tilted against the Republicans than in past years, according to Holladay, with customers lamenting the Bush administration. In 2000, Holladay's customers overwhelmingly chose Bush over Gore.

"Also, some of our clients have had President Bush at their homes while he was campaigning in Florida … We've always had Democrats come here, but our clientele generally leans Republican," Holladay said. But even some of his die-hard Republican customers seemed to have switched sides this year.

Before the results of the poll were even counted, Holladay predicted that the polls would reveal Obama to be the winner.

"I didn't cheat," he promised. "We don't look at the results until voting has ended the week before Election Day … I put a piece of tape on the side of the box and sign it. The box is also wrapped in a presidential seal — nobody can tamper with our results."

The idea for the mock election caught on when one of Holladay's costumers suggested it would be a fun idea, especially because many of his customers tend to be politically-minded.

The polls have been a hit nearly every election year, with customers eagerly casting their mock votes for president, governor and sometimes other state offices. During most election years, customers cast about 200 mock ballots. This year, 199 were cast from Oct. 1 through Friday.

Voters could fill in one of two bubbles on this year's ballot for either the McCain/Palin ticket or the Obama/Biden ticket.

Holladay thinks this year's poll results will spell trouble for John McCain on Tuesday.

"I tell you, if (McCain) can't win a majority of our customers, I don't see how he can win this election," he said.

Obama wins St. Petersburg barbershop's poll 11/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 12:29pm]
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