This diary follows Pragmaticus' brief account of this morning of Barack Obma's visit to Portsmouth, Ohio last night, where he spoke on the green at Shawnee State University before an estimated crowd of 10,000.
Below the fold I expand on some of Pragmiticus' comments and also put this into wider perspective as to why this was actually a pretty important event (I keep saying it and Kossacks don't always believe me but on rare occasions such as my argument with Paul Hackett I break through. Incidentally, I voted for Paul enthusiastically when he ran in "Mean Jean's" district (OH-2)since this district includes much of Portsmouth, and my neighborhood just north of Portsmouth where I am the volunteer neighborhood team leader for the Barack Obama campaign this time around. I also worked last night's event as a volunteer. Anyway, on with the story.
First of all, as I've learned though being neighborhood team leader at least some parts of my neighborhood are Democratic-Union strongholds, though there are some strong Republican parts as well. And this mirrors a lot of Portsmouth. There is still a strong Democratic presence and a lot of it is based in the remaining Unions (I say remaining because deindustrialization sent Portsmouth through a mini-Depression in the 70's and 80's).
This is also Ted Strickland (D-Governor of Ohio) territory. And of course this is a perfect example of an area where media pundits like tweety bird have opined whites wouldn't vote for Obama because he was too elitist. Hillary won this area quite soundly, with some good help from Bill. And as I said then, Obama would have done better here in the primaries if he had had the help from Ted that Hillary had.
OK-that's where I'm jumping in to the event: Ted Strickland was fantastic. I can't remember the exact quotes but it came down to Ted Strickland says he has talked to Obama and Obama will not take your guns-period-and Ted Strickland says so. When I was out canvasing one day I spent about 10 minutes in a friendly conversation with a guy who really wanted to vote Democratic but really was concerned that a Democratic Congress would get the ball rolling to take his guns away. To be frank, as a left-libertarian I have always thought new gun control laws were a) dumb and b) a losing issue for Democrats. Ted said other things last night-but that IMO was his absolute best line. Basically, Ted was saying to people-you know me, I know Barack, and Barack is a stand up guy and therefore he is like you and you should vote for him. That is going to make a difference.
And then Barack came on: Wow! I don't like to get real emotional about politics being one of those pointy headed, intellectual, arugula eatin', birkenstock wearin', prius drivin' elitists (actually, the only thing true above is I sometimes eat arugula and am an intellectual but I don't have any Birkenstocks or a Prius-unfortunately). Anyway, I'm rambling-back to my point.
I was about 50 feet from Barack on a part of my campus I walk across on a regular basis. Without the crowds and the stage we could have probably talked to each other in an almost normal tone of voice. So it really made an impression to make the man tangible to me.
But what Barack did in his speech was tremendous. Well, first-there was the pie story (already blogged so I won't repeat but the absolute best line of the evening hands down-follow the link and make the pie story viral). Again, I don't remember a lot of exact quotes but simply put, Barack was "Fahhrrred UP!". This was not the calm, cerebral, Constitutional Law Professor, this Barack had obviously been taking lessons from Ted. Barack struck a strong populist tone on the economy, explained the banking crisis really, really well without being either condescendingly simply or overly technical (that's not an easy thing to do). He talked about jobs and he talked about people's lives, hopes and dreams. He made a real strong connection. Some of my friends got to shake his hand. My colleague got a picture of him shaking her hand and then her neighbor's hand-she was beaming when she showed it to me in my office this morning. I stopped in this afternoon to Party Headquarters and an elderly woman talkd about how he had kissed her cheek when her daughters demanded Barack kiss her.
The point is Barack really connected people. He spoke to them in a way that they related to and he did while being himself. If Barack keeps doing this throughout Ohio, we will win Ohio hands down.
There's a lot of other impressions I have about volunteering for an event like this but I'll leave that for another time.