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Die-hards Switch Sides

John Martin of Woodlawn in the Bronx votes November 4, 2008, at a polling place near where he has lived his whole life. Photo by Indrani Datta

John Martin of Woodlawn in the Bronx votes November 4, 2008, at a polling place near where he has lived his whole life. Photo by Indrani Datta

Harriet Christian is a lifelong Democrat and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) supporter who voted for  Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Az). Photo by Indrani Datta

Harriet Christian is a lifelong Democrat and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) supporter who voted for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Az). Photo by Indrani Datta

Harriet Christian is a lifelong Democrat who works as a waitress in Manhattan. John Martin is a Navy reservist who’s always voted for Republicans.

They look like the stereotypical voters for their respective parties. And, for the first time in their lives, they voted for the opposing party’s candidate.

“I read the National Review, listened to Rush Limbaugh, volunteered for Rudy Giuliani,” said Martin, 30, who is in his third year at St. John’s University Law School. “Any sense of loyalty I had for the party has eroded in the last eight years. I don’t feel like I owe the party anything.”

Christian was a die-hard supporter of Hillary Clinton. But lately, she’s been clocking most of her time as a very visible member of DemocratsforMcCain.com. When the Democratic National Committee supported Barack Obama, the 65-year-old McCain convert very publicly aired her frustration. The scene was captured on video, and live on YouTube, where it’s gotten more than a million and a half views.

“I’m part of the core base of the Democratic Party, “ said Christian. “I fought very hard for Hillary. I was extremely disappointed at the stealing of the nomination from her. I realized it had become very corrupt, the Democratic Party.”

Two years ago, Martin founded Republicans for Obama, a grassroots organization that now boasts 2,500 registered Republicans from all across the country. Starting the group has raised his profile, but also had some negative consequences.

“Since I started, I’ve gotten some hate mail,” said Martin. “It’s always full of grammatical errors.”

With their heightened profiles, both Martin and Christian have become more careful about how they present themselves in public. Martin kept his black windbreaker free of campaign buttons on Election Day, but Christian entered the polling place with her preferences on her lapels: a “Hillary” brooch on one side and a “McCain” brooch on the other. Her navy blue blazer sported “Democrats for McCain” and “Nobama” buttons.

Neither Martin nor Christian plan on changing their party affiliations. Still, they are both disillusioned about the direction of the country and their Parties.

“My priority is helping the Republican Party back on its feet,” said Martin of his hopes for the conservative movement. But his work for Obama fits in with that view, he added. “I’m not under some illusion that he’s conservative. But I don’t want to see a Republican Congress that will hijack Obama’s efforts to get the country on track.”

Although Christian is impressed with John McCain’s judgment and character, she is also aware of his divergence from her core issues, such as abortion.

“My vote is primarily a protest vote against the Democratic Party,” she said. “Against a party that has told 18 million of us, the ones who voted for Hillary, that there’s no place for us.”