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As Barack Obama became the first black candidate to win the nation’s highest elected office, msnbc.com was on hand to document the thoughts and emotions of members of three generations of African-Americans. Click on the photos below to read a specific thread, or on the NBC logo to read field reports on the role of race in the election. Or you can scan the posts at right to read them in chronological order.

Validus Prep students

Students at Validus Prep, the Bronx, N.Y.

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Tammy Baker, office worker, Nashville, Tenn.

Henry McGee Jr.

Henry McGee Jr., law professor, Seattle, Wa.

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Field reports from NBC and affiliates

Defying stereotypes at Home Depot

Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 04:13 pm CT by Mike Stuckey
Filed under Seattle 66 comments—join the discussion

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Army veteran Edwin "Mac" McAdoo works as a day laborer, seeking jobs outside Home Depot. (John Brecher / mnsbc.com) 

A Home Depot parking lot isn’t a typical venue to discuss presidential politics, but this isn’t a  typical election, so we stopped by to work the crowd and see what we could find.

Among the scrum of eager day laborers clamoring for work at the North Seattle store on U.S. Highway 99 was Edwin “Mac” McAdoo. Among the shoppers was general contractor Phil Teller.

And as Sen. Barack Obama’s historic but improbable journey has defied conventional political wisdom, McAdoo and Teller defied political stereotypes.

With a mane of blond hair tucked under a Seattle Seahawks cap and a compact, hard-as-nails physique, McAdoo, 50, appears to be a poster boy of the proletariat, the kind of hard-working common man whom trade unions and Democrats take for granted.

But he’s rooting for Republican Sen. John McCain.

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Contractor Phil Teller's business had 12 employees before the rising cost of insurance and other issues drove him to lay them all off. He now works alone, and hopes to become a full-time writer. (John Brecher / msnbc.com)

An Army vet who says he served for seven years with special forces in places “we don’t talk about,” McAdoo believes the threat of radical Islam remains the nation’s most compelling issue. “We need a president that is strong enough to handle it,” he said. McCain has a “good understanding of the meaning of war. He knows the costs, he’s been there, he’s paid the price.”

McAdoo doesn’t see much that either candidate would do to help his own current economic situation, which he makes clear he is in by choice, having recently left an upholstery business in Colorado to move to Seattle. “I’m kind of learning this world,” he said. With his three children grown, “I have no responsibilities.” When he gets to know the area better, he may start another small business.

McAdoo believes Obama will win and that the election is all a show. As to its historic overtones, “I think they took a black man and a woman and pitted them against each other just to see where America is,” he said. Then, shaking his head, he added, “I don’t understand why they picked a man for president with almost the same name as the guy who sent those airplanes into those towers.”

But Teller, 57, is eager to see Obama elected. He says he entered the contracting business in 1990 after the current President Bush’s father broke his promise not to raise taxes, and a luxury levy on the power boats and yachts he was selling at the time put him “on the streets.”

Times were good under President Clinton, Teller said, and his firm grew to gross nearly $300,000 a year, employ a dozen workers and provide a respectable income for his family. But policies under the current Bush administration on everything from insurance deregulation to immigration have left him unable to compete, he said.

A big part of the problem, he said, is guys like McAdoo, many of them illegal immigrants, who will work under the table for $12 or $15 an hour, enabling his competitors to bid jobs for less than a third of what he can do them for. Now he works alone, 11 to 14 hours a day, often seven days a week. This year, he said, he’ll be lucky to earn $13,000.

“My wife’s got a good job,” he said. “Without her, I’d be done for.” He hopes to find a new career as a writer. He’s working on a novel, for which he already has an agent and a publisher, “and I’m not going to have to have $1 million in liability insurance.”

The historic aspects of an African-American president shrink in comparison to other issues for Teller. “Here is a man who, unlike the current president, knows we have a constitution, so he will uphold it,” Teller said. He expects Obama will need his first term to get the United States out of Iraq, which he calls an illegal war, and solve larger domestic issues than any that will address his own problems.

He hopes for a return to a period much like the Clinton presidency. “When people tell me they didn’t like the Clinton years, I ask them what they didn’t like, the peace or the prosperity?

“I’m a pillar of the community and Bush administration policies have cut the knees out of me. Who’s more mainstream than a middle-aged white guy with a small business with 12 employees who has gone broke?”

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