Friday, August 29, 2008

In North Liberty, Cheers and Relief at Obama Speech

In North Liberty, Cheers and Relief at Obama Speech

Johnson County Democrats at a speech watching party greeted Barack Obama's acceptance speech with cheers, and a sense of relief.

"All this week it was, 'can he do it again? Can he do it again?' He did it again," said county attorney Janet Lyness.

Expectations were high, between Obama's oratorical skills, the 75,000 seat stadium, and the calendar coincidence of the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, and kept getting higher, as Al Gore extended an analogy between Obama and Abraham Lincoln.

But for most Johnson County Democrats, Obama delivered. "Obama challenged the conventional wisdom by challenging his opponent's record directly, without being disrespectful," Johnson County Democratic chair Brian Flaherty said after the speech.

About 125 Obama supporters, a mix of the usual political suspects and newcomers, attended the party at the North Liberty community center. It was one of many speech parties across the state, as events were planned in all 99 counties. Attendees quickly demanded a channel change from CNN to the pundit-free version on CSPAN, and thus got to see the succession of Regular People who filled a half hour or so before Obama's speech. The best reaction, both in Denver and Iowa, went to the woman who says "I voted for Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush, but I can't afford to vote for McCain."

Organizers were well prepared, lining the walls with poster sized sign-up sheets for phone banks and yard signs. And a text message urging Obama supporters to volunteer now landed just before the speech.

West High student Zach Wahls is going to miss voting age by about eight months, but he's volunteering. "School's important, but this seems bigger in the grand scheme of things."

Flaherty disputed my take that a subtle age theme was present in lines like, "Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them," or "We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past."

"I think he's playing off the same theme that's been successful for Democrats in the past," said Flaherty. "In many ways this election is similar to 1996. When it comes down to it McCain's policies are based in the 1980s and 1990s. If people really want a change from the ideologies of the past, the only way we can do it is by walking forward with Obama."

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