11:54 and the staffers are stalling for a little time; they tell me she's running 10 or 15 minutes late. Gives them a chance to introduce the local electeds and do the volunteer and early ballot rap.
A special shout out and thank you to my dear wife Koni who saved my butt yet AGAIN and brought me my forgotten camera battery.
This is billed as a "brown bag lunch" but I only see evidence of one person nibbling a salad out of the 125 or so here. It's the second of three stops today for the governor; my editor Chase notes that the Kansas GOP shoots off a press release bashing her for campaigning.
She told the Hutchinson (KS) News that she campaigns mostly on the weekends:
Sebelius campaigns on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket, with out-of-state travel - sometimes on commercial flights, sometimes by private plane - “entirely paid for by the campaign,” she said.
Mostly, campaigning occurs on weekends, said Sebelius, scheduled to go to Indiana and Ohio this Friday and Saturday.
To which the Kansas GOP blogged:
Wrong. Most of Sebelius’s campaigning occurs during the week - during the time she is “working” for the people of Kansas.
If not, then apparently today, tomorrow and the next day are weekend days! In that case, I want to follow the Governor’s schedule.
"A lot of us are dying to get bumper stickers" hollers one audience member.
County Attorney Janet Lyness is tapped to do the intro. Mostly the bio points; a little name humor. It's pronounced se-BEE-li-us.
12:10 and she's on. "I'm the advance team for the McCain-Palin visit."
"I don't know what economy McCain is looking at. He's not looking at the economy of Iowa, he's not looking at the economy of Kansas, he's not looking at the economy of America. We are not sound."
Uses the device of 'ask McCain these questions,' (not that McC is doing Q & A necessarily)
"What is your measurement of 'sound' - is it families at work, is it more affordable gas, more of us can afford health care. Barack Obama does not think the economy is sound."
Gets to numbers on tax cuts and tax policy and health care policy, staying very very close to the talking points. "Health care is a moral responsibility, it's also a financial responsibility. We're spending more and not expanding care. BO like HC supports health care for all Americans." (dropping the Clinton name in passing -- though she was early for Obama herself)
"The bottom line question is, do you think George Bush has been a wonderful president?" When you have exactly the same policies on the war, on health care, energy, and on privatizing Social Security. "Can you imagine if Social Security was playing the wheel of fortune on Wall Street right now?" Takes it back to the old Reagan "are you better off?" "We don't need someone who just talks about change, we need someone who will actually change the direction of this country, and that's Barack Obama and Joe Biden."
Praise for the caucuses. "The vision and dreams of all the candidates are moving in the same direction and very, very different than four more years of Bush-Cheney policies."
Says "something happened: to McCain and thinks it was losing in 2000. "John McCain the Maverick has become John McCain the sidekick."
Speech overall is very low key, sit-down conversational. She moved out from the podium almost immediately. Main speech is done at 12:24.
Q and A. Question 1 from a student from... Kansas! What's strategy to persuade Kansans to vote D? KS: We've only gone D twice, 1932 and 1964. "They'll elect Democrats statewide, but president is a little more of a stretch." Tells the Obama's mom is from Kansas story. Obama down 8 in Kansas, very different than Gore losing by 24. "I can do a much better job in KS, Chet Culver can do a much better job in Iowa, if we have a partner in the White house instead of an adversary."
McCain role in financial de-reg? KS (that stands for both Kathleen Sebelius and Kansas, I realize as I type) is right to the talking points, citing Phil Gramm "who is the odds on favorite to be treasury secretary" and using the word 'whiners.' And the "don't know much about economy" quote of course.
Next questioner more of a statement: How to reach people who made good economic decisions (kinda dancing around the mortgage crisis). 'The number one cause of bankruptcy in this country is medical." One of the main problems there is under-insurance. (She's ex-insurance commissioner.) "If you work hard and pay your taxes you should be able to afford to save, pay your bills, and send your kids to college. And it starts with fair taxation and a fair health care policy."
Will McCain taxing benefits discourage people from signing up? KS: "Some people say the goal is to dismantle employer-based coverage. In Bush's first term there was some talk that people would be responsible for their own. Individual coverage is the most expensive and least effective kind of coverage because you don't share the risks. And I think it does discourage people. It's a frightening step in the wrong direction." Uses the Obama line: ownership vs. "you're on your own."
The "clean" coal question vis a vis Culver. KS: "We need to see if carbon capture will be feasible in the marketplace, and move wind and solar to the marketplace. It's not that Culver believes there is such a thing as clean coal, though the coal companies would like us to believe that." We need to spend some real money, which Bush has not done. "Kansas is the third windiest state, even when the legislature is not in session. But we need some help with transmission lines."
"John McCain has voted against alternative energy plans at least 9 times."
Why is it so close? "A lot of people know more about the Olympics than the election, so they're not focused."
"Have any of you noticed that BO is part African American? That may be a factor. All the code language, all that doesn't show up in the polls. And that may be a factor for some people" But "All that hard work he does shows he's more in touch than someone who doesn't know how many houses he owns." From there she goes to the every vote matters rap.
Someone follows up with the poll accuracy and cell phone factor -- very horse race here today. "I have a 24 and a 27 year old and they've never had a land line since they went to college. SO they don't show up in polls. But they need to show up AT the polls."
More horse race statements from the audience. "I don't see us counteracting the Republicans. We almost need a Democratic Karl Rove." KS: "Some of those concerns are well-placed. If anything that's going to accelerate. A lot of the Republicans and independents who support me used to admire John McCain. And that's pretty much gone. The word is getting out that he will do anything or say anything, even if he knows it's absolutely not true." Says attention will shift to the economy. "John McCain wants to talk about anything but the economy and his record, and I think that's about over."
Bob Elliott: "Lipstick can stay home! Talk about the issues!" and that passes for a last question.
1:00 straight up and she's gone after a little press time. I ask about the KS GOP critique. "It's unfortunate. I'm balancing my job with an opportunity to elect a new president. And I can do a better job as governor of Kansas if I have a partner in the White House."
How about that one other governor? "She's one of our new governors, and I've met her at a couple of events that all the governors were at. But we've really had no personal interaction. The real issue is John McCain vs. Barack Obama, and their policies could not be more different."
Why Iowa, with the polls looking good? "Iowa is likely to be decided by a couple percent either way," she said, citing 2000 and 2004 again. "This is an important time to be in Iowa, right before early voting starts."