Friday, October 24, 2008

AB Meets Obama... Sorta.

One perk of being momentarily unemployed is the occasional freedom to do stuff that people with Day Jobs simply can't. So the other day, my good friend and sporadic commenter ANewP calls me about this Obama rally in scenic Leesburg, Virginia. Despite all the time I've logged volunteering for the campaign, as well as blogging in support here, I've yet to actually go to a rally. This is mainly because I live in a state that's a foregone conclusion. Maryland is solidly blue, thus neither candidate even bothers pandering in The Old Line State.

Anyways, my boy tells me about the rally, I get an afternoon furlough clearance from AverageSis, and we're on our way.

Here's some random observations from my experience, in no particular order.

Big Crowd? - The crowd at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg was estimated at 35,000 by local authorities. We were pretty close to the stage the entire time, and I don't doubt that the park had the capacity to hold such a sizable crowd, but I seriously doubt there were 35,000 people there. I don't work for the US Park Service, so I'm clearly no expert, but I guesstimated the crowd was half that at best. Was it packed? Yes? Was it more packed than the homecoming game at my Negro College HBCU? Not even close. Again, the number given was by the state of VA, not the campaign, but I wonder if inflating crowd sizes is something that's routinely done just for the sake of exaggerated importance. I'm just sayin'. If you know, do fill me in.

Hustlin' - In case you didn't know, Obama is the new bootleg DVD. Which is to say that Obama gear (shirts, hats, buttons, posters) is the new item of choice for barbershop and card table on the corner of Minnesota and Burroughs Ave vendors. I'm used to seeing these dudes at the barbershop, or when I'm around the way in Soufeas DC at my mother in law's crib. Apparently, the hustlers all carpooled out to the country, cause you couldn't walk 10 steps without someone (including LOTS of white folks, that's a new one for me) trying to hawk something.

The oddest item of all: a brown "I {heart} Black People: Obama 08'" button being sold by some slacker/stoner. I still don't really know how to react to that one.

Security - This one was a shocker. There were LOTS of people there, and those in the main area around the stage (about half the overall crowd) had to go through a security check. This meant opening any bags and allowing the cops to inspect any electronic devices. We then went through airport style metal detectors. But honestly, that was about the extent of it. Bear in mind that Ida Lee Park is more or less a huge, sprawling, rural cow pasture with plenty of open land surrounding the area where the stage was. Secret Service was in full effect around the perimeter, and I'm sure there was an undercover presence in the crowd. But my overall impression was that security could have been far tighter, given the nature of the event.

Diversity - Leesburg is in Loudoun County, which is a mere hop and skip from DC. The crowd looked like more of a DC audience than one from horse country. The areas we drove through to get to the event were pockmarked with McCain/Palin yard signs, but the event itself looked like any other you'd see on 7th Street on a typical weekend. 2/3 white, 1/3 black, with lots of other ethnicities mixed in for good measure. Lots of young folks. Boatloads of yuppies. Plenty of black professionals. Everyone was very polite, friendly, and over-the-top enthusiastic. There was little Anti-McCain/Palin sentiment. People just generally seem to ignore them. It's hard to imagine a GOP event pulling this sort of crowd. Unfortunately, the campaign music wasn't nearly as interesting. A mix of folk music (?), country and western tunes (think Lee Greenwood), and the occasional Motown hit seemed to contradict the "hip and young" image the campaign is trying to project. And worse, the same 8 songs kept repeating over and over. Folks were audibly groaning the 4th time "Livin' In America" blared over the speakers. Thank God for iPods. Update yours, Barry. Please.

The Warmup Acts - We arrived at the park about 2 hours before the posted 5:30 start time. As expected, the under card was full of Commonwealth politicians trying to ride the coattails of The Magic Negro into office. There was some Congresswoman who bored me to tears. A couple of youthful campaign staffers tried (unsuccessfully) to rev the crowd into a frenzy, but with temps hovering in the low 50's, people were not goin' for that "Yes We Can" mumbojumbo. Finally, ex-Governor and current Senatorial candidate Mark Warner took the stage and gave everyone an extra strength dose of ZZZZZ. I see why dude dropped his run for the White House. He makes John McCain look like P. Diddy. Warner then introduced current Governor Tim Kaine, who was once a serious contender for Barack's Veep slot. In retrospect, Barry made the right choice. While he's charming and very funny, Kaine just seems to lack the gravitas and experience to run the free world right now. Sarah Palin looks seasoned by comparison.

Black Jesus Arrives! - At long last, Kaine introduces Obama, who pops up side stage and the energy in the crowd immediately peaks. Beside a couple of losers like the VA Governors, Barry absolutely screams "Presidential!". He grabs their hands, raises their arms, and does that cheesy "we're all champions" made-for-photo-op gesture that seemingly every politician in the word can't escape, despite how cliched.

He then gladhands the dozens of very carefully selected supporters sitting in the risers behind him. He gleefully points and smiles to folks in the audience, before motioning for the frenzied crowd to calm down so he can get down to speakin'. Give it to dude, he definitely has the "politician" part of the gig down, beyond reproach.

More Substance, Less Style - You never really know what to expect at a political rally, since the nature of the speech could be a simple rah-rah act or a full blown policy statement. I expected a short pep rally, given the fact that Obama had convened a pretty hefty symposium on national security earlier in the day. And while I'm smart enough to know that earlier reports of fanatics passing out and fainting at Obama rallies was probably an exaggeration, I still expected more rhetorical style that actual takeaways. Wrong.

Dude took the time to very clearly articulate his policies on taxes, national security, the economy, and education, but managed to do so in a manner that didn't put you to sleep. He didn't bash his opponents, scarcely mentioned McCain, and didn't utter the word "Palin" a single time. The crowd was more attentive than enthusiastic. I'm not saying there aren't crowds that are fanatical and dripping at his every word, but this clearly wasn't the one. Applause was polite, but not over the top. Few spontaneous cheers broke out. Maybe this has more to do with the demographics of the area, but it seemed like people were more interested in learning that simply cheering soundbytes, and dude delivered on all accounts.

Synopsis - ANewP and I conferred on the way home. Watching Obama in person, it's easy to see why so many people are enraptured by him. Dude, simply put, is good. He's great with crowds, didn't butcher his teleprompter, can outline his stances clearly, and has the right temperament. Namely, he doesn't attack. He can simply state his views, his opponents views, and let you make your own decision. And yes, he looks presidential on the stump. I don't even know what that means, since I haven't even seen another sitting President in person, but I know what it looks like when I see it, and Barry has "it".

Given his 10 point lead in the latest polls, it's difficult to imagine Obama losing The Commonwealth Of Virginia. As a matter of fact, it seems now that with less than 2 weeks to go, the only real way for Obama to lose period, is if voter turnout ends up lower than expected.

11 Days and counting. We shall see.

Question - Have you been to an Obama (or McCain) event this season? What were your general impressions?

Candidate meets voters in Leesburg [The Winchester Star]

35,000 Turn Out for Obama Rally in Leesburg, Virginia [WJLA]

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