Obama warms up shivering supporters the morning after

The Colorado Statesman

It’s probably a good thing that Northwest Denver is a solid Democratic neighborhood. The sound system at Barack Obama’s post debate rally Thursday morning was just short of deafening. The police officer at the tennis court parking lot, a quarter of a mile away, was wearing earplugs as rock and roll rattled windows and set dogs barking. It seems probable that the organizers were hoping for an ebullient, end zone dance for the President, but in today’s wired world everyone knew the score. Mitt Romney had thumped the leader of the free world like a drum on Wednesday evening. Nonetheless, six or eight thousand supporters had crawled out of bed on
a chilly autumn morning that signaled winter was on its way even if we
should enjoy a few more Indian summer days.

Pallets of Deep Rock water bottles had been unceremoniously dumped at strategic locations, presumably as hydrating relief against a sweltering late summer morning. In a display of entrepreneurial ingenuity that would have pleased Governor Romney, the vertically challenged (short people) were confiscating the 24-pack cartons to improvise viewing platforms. These seemed to become unstable when stacked more than three deep. A Starbucks cart plying hot coffee would have made a fortune, paying off some kid’s student loans in the process. The crowd was subdued, but convivial. Lots of conversations — not so much about politics, but about how they were going to get to work later.

La Leché Leaguers would have been pleased with the clutch of Moms discreetly nursing their infants. An entire student body from a nearby elementary was mixed into the crowd, with distraught teachers trying to count heads as their charges ran loose. For those who suspect this report may constitute confirmation of their suspicion that a socialist conspiracy to brainwash the next generation is underway in our public schools, I was assured that each student had brought a note from home permitting them to participate in this civic exercise. A handful of Republican kids apparently remained behind in the cafeteria, where I suspect they deeply resented their parents.

A couple drifted through the crowd with polar bear costume puppets and a sign admonishing Jim Lehrer for having ignored climate change — the “burning question” facing Americans. People took pictures of their kids with the polar bears, but tried to avoid any further conversations. Several anti-frackers also attempted to stir up the crowd, and, occasionally the sweet scent of burning cannabis hung in the air. It seemed a little early in the day for this, rather like a martini before lunch, but who’s to judge?

I ran across my friends, James Scott and his wife Ayo Labode, and their two children. They confirmed their unwavering support for the President linked directly to their admiration for the tough decisions they believe he made early on to rescue the American economy. “It’s a question of courage,” Ayo told me. “Republicans have attemp-ted to humiliate this President at every opportunity. He’s my guy and I’m going to stand with him no matter what.” This kind of steely commitment, quiet yet resolute, characterized the shivering partisans waiting to hear their candidate. Federico Peña and Mark Udall attempted to arouse the crowd with partisan tropes, but were only greeted with polite, albeit appreciative, applause — these were men and women waiting for the main event. They represented a genuine cross section of Colorado, old and young, brown and black, struggling and comfortable. If nothing else, the Denver debate has clearly drawn a contrast between two fundamentally different views of our challenges and how to deal with them. If nothing else, and for better or worse, 2012 should prove a watershed election. Whichever party loses will be in for a significant retooling.

Perhaps it was the secondhand fumes, but as Obama bounded to the podium on a rousing sea of cheers, it struck me that our Presidential candidates actually travel in a contrived musical cocoon, accompanied by the thumping beat of rock and roll drums and bass guitars. The President seemed to have tapped his personal energy reserve overnight and immediately lit into the impostor claiming to be Mitt Romney that he debated the night before. The “fella on stage last night” apparently wasn’t interested in tax cuts, loved public school teachers and was wholly ignorant of tax incentives for outsourcing American jobs. Obama sarcastically described this fake Romney as in full flight from the record of the genuine Mitt Romney. It wasn’t a perfect rejoinder, and was too polite to call out his opponent as the lying sack of horse apples he believes him to be, but it got the crowd to chanting “Four more years!”

Then the President returned to the well-worn and familiar stump speech we’ve all heard during the past few months: building an economy that will last — growing our economy from the middle out, not the top down — the call for a new economic patriotism — and the charge that a return to Bushonomics would constitute a “relapse”… all good, red meat rhetoric for a Democratic audience. It was difficult to recall the enthusiasm that attracted a hundred thousand Coloradans to the mall between the Capitol and City Hall four years ago. Obama is not the sure thing victor in Colorado this year that he was then. The bruises inflicted over the past four years have chastened both the candidate of hope and change along with his supporters. Their determination, however, to see it through, to give hope one more chance just may see them through.