Monday, August 15, 2011

Perry Packs The Hamburg

Perry Packs The Hamburg

One thing's for sure: on Day Three of his campaign, Rick Perry is a big draw.

Hamburg inn wait staff said people began showing up at 1:30 for an event that was first billed as 3:45 p.m., then 3:30, and by the time I arrived "sometime after 3." I didn't manage to get inside until after the Texas governor had departed on the Platybus, but Panther colorfully described indoor conditions as: "it's butt to butt in there."

This is what democracy looks like: what the inside of the Hamburg Inn looked like from the outside

The crowd was likely the biggest for an event at the north side diner and political landmark since a 2007 John Edwards event. Edwards never actually set foot inside, but instead spoke to the crowd from the campaign bus.

Perry did not speak; before his arrival a staffer told me the vent was just a meet and greet. Still, that disappointed a few folks in the crowd: supporters, curious Republicans, lefty protesters, and all manner of local and national press. "I was kind of hoping he'd get up and say something," said Panther. Nevertheless, he was snapping pictures, introduced some of his staff to Perry, and just generally seemed proud of his establishment's tradition.

Event organizers carefully lined up supporters at the doors for a nice TV backdrop for Perry, as protesters shouted questions. "Are you going to end Social Security? Are you going to end Social Security?" one older gentleman shouted repeatedly, waving a sign and literally shaking with rage. Across the street, another group managed to work in the Hey Hey Ho Ho chant and the This Is What Democracy Looks Like chant, but failed to complete the trifecta with When Do We Want It? Now!

I didn't get close enough to try for a question - mine was going to be more inside basebally about reaching out to Pawlenty supporters - but I did get close enough to hear that Texas drawl (flashback?): "How y'all doin? Glad y'all could make it."

The advance staff had the kind of faux Secret Service vibe that the 2007 Romney and Giuliani campaigns tried to project: earpieces, coded pins, sending a message of This Is A Very Important Man. At least one serious looking guy was Iowa State Patrol plainclothes. Perry campaign staff had been on the ground about five days before the event, and Panther said that was when he was contacted, about five days ago.

Waiting outside, the "discussion" between late arriving Republicans who couldn't squeeze in and picketers (both traditional lefties and Ron Paul folks) got heated occasionally, but no trips to Fist City.

All in all, probably a good media hit for Perry, and it looked like everyone who really wanted a handshake or autograph and was willing to work a little for it got one. But if he's back, I'm sure the local GOP and press corps would appreciate a little speech and a little Q and A.

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