Two presidential candidates. Two political rallies. Two mobs of politically-charged crowds. And two multimillion dollar sports arenas aptly named after banks.

No matter who wins the presidential election today, we all know who the real winners are going to be; those institutions that made out with billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money during last month’s financial crisis bailout.

On a positive note, at least the government wasn’t spreading the wealth to the actual people.

Tuesday’s Barack Obama rally at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise drew more than 20,000 people. And Sunday’s John McCain rally at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables drew more than 8,000. And that’s considering that McCain didn’t even take the stage until after midnight, minutes after he landed from New Hampshire.

Both rallies proved that South Floridian democrats and republicans have more in common then they would like you to believe. However, their differences are black and white.

In the republican rally, there was a sense they were voting against Obama rather than for McCain, while in the Obama rally it was the complete opposite. Perhaps this is the reason some republicans accuse democrats of idolizing Obama.

But then again, during the 2004 election, many republicans accused democrats of voting against Bush more so than voting for John Kerry. They were right and that is why Kerry lost.

This time looks to be different. Or does it?

As is customary in Miami republican circles made up of mostly Cuban-Americans, it felt mostly like a rally against Fidel Castro than against an American politician who has no affiliation with the communist party.

Enemies of the United States = Friends of Obama

In the above picture, the sign translates to “I left Cuba to Venezuela, then from Venezuela to the United States. Where do I go from here?”

The guy in the blue shirt is Michael Marko, a photojournalist buddy of mine who doesn’t like it when people tell him not to take photos. Even though it was hours before McCain was to arrive, they had the press corralled into a side section where they refused to let us go on the main floor, where it seemed everybody else was being allowed to go.

Marko started asking around and received contradictory responses from security guards and event organizers, some of them telling us we were welcome to go on the floor to take all the photos we please, others telling us we can take all the photos we want as long as we don’t step on the floor.

Finally, we got the green light by a guy in a suit and a transmitter ear piece, who told the security guard to allow us on the floor. About five minutes later, two guys in suits confronted Mike, ordering him off the floor, which may have been restricted to republicans only, not that he was stating his party affiliation.

Then they came after me. As if that’s a surprise.

He was actually a nice guy and eventually worked it out so we could get back on the floor if we promised to go back to the media area before McCain arrived, which wasn’t for at least another three hours.

It seemed as if there was an obligatory prerequisite to wear stickers that said “Joe” in order to get on the floor.

In fact, these stickers were being handed out by Miguel Saavedra, center, who heads the Vigilia Mambisa anti-Castro group.

I wonder how Joe the Plumber would have reacted if he had come to Miami and learned that his moniker had been translated into Spanish.

One of the most refreshing similarities between the two rallies was the high number of young people in attendance, many who did not appear old enough to vote but nevertheless were fully involved in the political process.

There was an abundance of women at both rallies, something which would never have happened 100 years ago. Perhaps change does not always mean dictatorship.

So both sides obviously benefit from the positive changes that have undergone in our democracy since its birth more than 200 years ago. But this year, the republicans are resisting the change, as groups have done throughout history.

There was also a certain uniformity among the republicans, especially in how many of them held up homemade signs that appeared to be written by the same person. And no, I don’t believe she is a democrat.

The democrats did not have as many homemade signs but they were just as enthused about their candidate, if not more enthused.

One thing you can’t take away from Miami’s Hispanic republicans is that they can party as hard as any democrat, and they partied for several hours sans alcohol while several Cuban bands performed in the hours before McCain arrived.

But what’s a political rally without the politicians? Here we have former Florida democratic governor Bob Graham, and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, two republican Cuban-American congressmen who are in jeopardy of losing their seats today.

Here we have democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden and republican Florida Senator Mel Martinez, also a Cuban-American.

And, of course, the candidates themselves, one which will be elected president today. Unless the media gets its wish for a repeat of 2000.

And through it all, I managed to sit down and rest before McCain’s arrival, which is when my photojournalist buddy Al Crespo snapped this shot of me.

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