The Speech: Live from 784 miles away
As the car drives, anyway. Johnson County Democrats are among the many Democrats gathered for speech watching parties. It's supposed to be a 99 county thing in Iowa. This scene is the North Liberty Rec Center. Ironically, the first time I ever met John McCain was in this same room.
It's an estimated hour twenty to speech time. Too soon for a crowd count as folks trickle in. The locals have put together some food to raise some bucks, and people are still in eating mode. The consensus quickly gets the TV switched from CNN to CSPAN. Stevie Wonder is playing the Obama standard "Signed Sealed Delivered" -- the actual Stevie Wonder, that is, not the usual staffer iPod. The staffers have formed a solid united front and are getting down the names -- a good thing for them since a lot of names beyond the usual suspects are present.
The usual suspects, of course, are also present, except for a fair share in Denver. Johnson County got five elected national delegates and one superdelegate, and a few other folks went out just for the show.
A little grumbling at the sign-in table from folks who want bumper stickers and yard signs. This is the stage of campaign, immediate post-running mate, when the old stuff is gone and the new stuff ain't ready yet.
Al Gore comes on and gets applause from most (but not me). Despite my distaste (as noted by several of my friends), even I have to like the line "I believe in recycling but that's ridiculous." Maybe McCain will recycle Gore's running mate, too. The room quickly settles down into speech-watching more at this speech.
Gore extends the Lincoln analogy a bit far -- expectations are already high enough with the I Have A Dream anniversary... County chairs pitching hard with the volunteer pitch; at least a dozen poster sign up sheets line the walls. Staffers standby waving sharpies.
Body count looks to be 125 or so 45 minutes pre-speech. Let's do the rundown of the electeds I detect: Jacoby, Lyness, Pulkrabek, Sullivan, Neuzil, Correia. I think that's all.
Biden starts out referencing the Broncos (which still hurts after Super Bowl XXXII) then reprises some of his material from last night. Only about five minutes, setting an All Time Record for Shortest Biden Speech.
Perfect timing: Obama hits us with the VOLUNTEER NOW text message.
Biden is followed by a series of Real People. County Chair Brian Flaherty makes the point that these Real People are carrying the attack on Bush and McCain, and the pundits are missing it. This, of course, is the CSPAN view of the convention. The pundits are no doubt talking amongst themselves. Best reaction, both in Denver and Iowa, goes to the woman who says "I voted for Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush, but I can't afford to vote for McCain."
West High student Zach Wahls is going to miss voting by about eight months but he's volunteering. "School's important, but this seems bigger in the grand scheme of things."
The stadium cranks some Springsteen and Lennon, which is pretty cool if you're an old guy like me who remembers Reagan trying to co-opt the Boss in 1984, as opposed to Obama getting the official Bruce endorsement.
Dick Durbin whips up the crowd and introduces a film as the lights go low here in the hall. The sign of Obama gets applause here and stops conversations, except for awwwws at the baby picture.
They seem to have saved some fresh stories and pics for the video.
9:12 and Obama takes the stage to "City of Blinding Lights." (New stories but no new music.) I don't see an empty seat in the stadium. Looks like the Super Bowl.
So he accepts the nomination. Big news; I'll try to get that up in the lede. But the room loves it and stands. Praise for Hillary way up top; no cutaway shot to her. (the networks would have done that, but CSPAN only cuts to Michelle and Biden, who are seated together. Kids again steal the show.)
"Broken politics and failed Bush policies" ties together the Overarching Obama theme and the bashing that still seems to work. "We are better than the last eight years" goes over well. The name McCain not yet mentioned. They start chanting "eight is enough" thus securing the all important Dick Van Patten vote.
Here's McCain: the same "served with honor" etc. (no one's touching McCain's personal dirt) but votes with Bush," etc. "What does it say about your judgment when you think Bush is 90% right" goes over VERY well.
"It's not that McCain doesn't CARE, it's that he DOESN'T KNOW": Mathews will call that a "competency test" or a sideways way at getting at age. The allegedly controversial Greek Columns are a minor part of the scene.
Oh, here's some praise on Bill Clinton's economic record. That'll make 42 happy.
Flag pin: check.
Restating the biography in all-American terms, and the little "celebrity" dig goes over well. And restating the "I am my brother's keeper" from 2004.
"Drilling is a stopgap measure not a long term solution." The McCain digs are all issue based or tenure based ("We've been talking for 30 years and McCain's been in Washington for 26" - is that another way of saying "old"?) with no mention of, oh, houses.
Government can't turn off TV's, etc., playing that Cosby card. We junkies have seen that side of Obama before but Real People haven't. They haven't heard "that's a debate I'm ready to have" either, but the crowd in Denver cheers so long Obama has to step on it.
"McCain won't even follow Bin Laden to the cave where he lives." That's a hit in this room.
"Threats of the future vs. ideas of the past." There's a frame for the whole national security debate of the fall. And it works OLD in there too.
Takes on the Patriotism Thing and that;s a big hit here and in Denver. "I've got news for you John McCain -- we ALL put our country first."
The reach out on God and Guns and Gays. Will it fly?
"If you don't have fresh ideas you use stale tactics. You make a big election about small things."
He directly addresses I Have A Dream -- which is also the first oblique reference to the history that is thick in the air.
The speech is over and the partisans loved it -- with 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. She was a Clinton supporter in the primaries and was phonebanking to former Hillary backers after the Tuesday night speech, and reported positive results.
"Obama challenged the conventional wisdom by challenging his opponent's record directly, without being disrespectful," says Brian Flaherty. He's not with me on my Subtle Age theme, but does say, "I think he's playing off the same theme that's been successful for Democrats in the past. 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."