How was the speech? It wasn’t Denver.
Paint me jaded, but having seen the Super Bowl – an analogy I keep succumbing to when describing Barack Obama’s speech at INVESCO Field three weeks ago – Obama’s speech yesterday at Cashman Field was like watching an intrasquad scrimmage. It’s tough to compare 84,000 full-throated supporters to the 14,000 at Cashman Field (announced, though I didn’t realize Cashman Field, with a capacity of 9,334, could hold that large a crowd, and I cynically doubt the crowd was 14,000). And instead of watching Obama talk from the 15-yard-line while seated at the Denver Broncos’ home field, I stood just off third base, where the great George Arias once toiled for the Las Vegas Stars (now there’s a bygone reference). The weather at INVESCO was pure, cool and clear; it rained for a time yesterday, and the wind kicked up as the crowd trickled in, so much so that CNN’s Candy Crowley was nearly clipped in the head by a wobbly umbrella.
But what was similar, in Denver and here, was the energy, the color, of those who made the pilgrimage to see Obama speak Wednesday and on Aug. 30. I haven’t been to a McCain-Palin rally (where reporters who have covered both campaigns say inflated attendance figures are reportedly the order of the day), but I doubt they draw a couple like Jami and Sandi Falin.
Jami is a waiter and assistant manager at Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel. Sandi is his wife, expecting a daughter (who will not be named Sarah; I asked) on Feb. 25. The arms of both Falins were covered in brightly colored, flaming tattoos. The Falins caught Obama for the same reason people headed for INVESCO – to see a piece of history.
“It’s a moment in time, an epic event, to me,” Jami said. “It’s being part of history.” When I asked both Falins why they were voting for Obama. “We’re having a child,” Jami said. “You worry about what you’re bringing your child into. What’s the future going to be like? Who really cares about that? I think it’s Obama.” Sandi added, “There’s no contest. What’s the debate here? It’s Obama’s brilliance versus McCain’s four years spent as a POW. What kind of a choice is that? I think Obama’s honesty shows through. He’s a bright light to me.”
Same message I heard from everyone I talked to last month. Obama’s hope message, delivered crisply in 40 minutes (and with a teleprompter, something Obama hasn’t always used on the stump) was peppered with jabs at McCain. But Obama’s not a classic rip-and-tear politician. When he’s cutting into McCain, he does so with a bemused grin, his voice rising just slightly. When he reminds supporters that McCain said, again, that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong,” he says, sarcastically, “This has been an interesting week for John McCain. His first reaction (to the financial AIG crisis) was to stand up and repeat a line that is one of his favorites: ‘The Fundamentals of the economy are strong.’ His campaign must have realized this wasn’t the smartest thing to say on the day of the largest financial meltdown we’ve seen in a long time. So they sent him out there to clean up his remarks.”
Then Obama smiled and unloaded the “old-boy” material: “Yesterday he said he is going to, and I quote, ‘Take on the old boy network. The old boy network? In the McCain campaign, that’s called a staff meeting!”
He likes that line, hence the grin.
As I walked out, about an hour after the rally, winding through petition-carrying volunteers and entrepreneurs selling buttons, I called my mom up in Boise, to her blue house in a red state. I asked if she saw coverage of the rally. She repeated the “old boys” line, and on a day of hope, that line looks like a winner. So does the guy who spoke. It.