It worked, the bold gamble to take the entire show outside and create the Obama Super Bowl worked magnificently. The amazing ability of the Obama campaign, unlike every other campaign in history, to continue to raise expectations and meet them is remarkable. Yes, there was a six hour wait either online trying to get in (Lindsey reported that folks were doing the wave on the 3 mile line waiting to get in) or in the stadium. Yes, there were a series of rather bizarre speakers in prime time – Barney Smith, the awkward, plaid-shirted Indianian was a particular crowd favorite with perhaps the best line of the night about needing a president who puts Barney Smith ahead of Smith Barney, and the endless parade of vets to assure everyone in America that Democrats aren’t all sissys (is there really a General named Fig Newton?) Although one note to event planners: unexpected fireworks with such heightened security concerns was a very bad idea – kinda scary there on the site.
The coolest pre-game activity for geeky me was the real-time text mesaging sign up that was shown on a huge computer map on the screen. In two hours 30,000 people had signed up to volunteer for the campaign by text message. But, ultimately, when the star finally came out, Barack was amazingly better than all of the sky high expectations.
Obama’s poise and confidence is unparalleled – the only person who seems to come close is Bill Clinton – but it took Clinton a long time to command a large audience. Obama is more lyrical, more comfortable in his own skin, less eager to please than Clinton.
It was a very different experience outside at Invesco Field than at the Pepsi Center. Peggy Noonan wrote in the Journal yesterday that an open air experience is risky for political speakers. She wrote, “My own added thought is that speeches are delicate; they’re words in the air, and when you’ve got a ceiling the words can sort of go up to that ceiling and come back down again. But words said into an open air stadium…can just get lost in echoes, and misheard phrases.” And she was absolutely right (although everything else in her article was dead wrong!) The rousing ovations for Michelle Obama and Hillary enveloped you in the Pepsi Center, you were inside of the sound. In Invesco the ovations went up and out and I suspect it was very loud for the TV microphones, for me sitting in the end zone it went up and out and didn’t stay with us.
But the outdoor transfer was also intended to allow more everyday Dems to join the party, not just the Party. And on this point, it was a smashing success. There was an underlying trepidation that was palpable at the Pepsi Center. And not just from Hillary supporters. I talked to Obama delegates who are nervous that the rest of America is getting Obama. There were the DNC finance people who are nervous about the double whammy of Obama opting out of the public finance system and discouraging 527 funding (those are the outside groups that can spend as much as they want on advertising.) In total that is about a $150 million hit that will be difficult to make up. There was no angst or worry from the 50,000 Obama supporters just unadulterated, unbridled enthusiasm for Obama. And this makes perfect sense, doesn’t it, it was there newcomers and activists who have powered the Obama campaign all along, not Democratic insiders. The topsy-turvy effect of being at Invesco was best illustrated by the fact that 50 yard line seats, the best seats in the house for a football game, were the worst seats for this event, blocked from the podium by the media tents and a better view of the entire event if you weren’t a delegate standing on the field, was from farther up in the stadium.
A final thought from Denver:
Democrats are rally cool and hip. When I worked for the Democratic National Committee in the early 90s were we old, creaky and slow, unions and big government, fear-filled and depressing. These Dems are young and optimistic, global, and above all really, really tech savvy. The coolest place I went to was the Huffington Post “Oasis” a floor of an office building above where the progressive bloggers were housed that had private chefs, organic snacks, massages and yoga. The blogosphere powered the Dean campaign and the Obama campaign. Of course, other factors like the worst president in history and a horrible war have also powered the growth in Dem registration, but certainly all together the Dems are now the younger, cooler party than the Republicans.