On Thursday evening, July 5, for the first time in over four years, I saw Barack Obama in person.The last three times I saw him, he was either just plain ole U.S. Senator Obama (2006) or Senator and presidential candidate Obama (2007, 2008). The main differences I noticed? Age, confidence, charisma, and fervor -- he displayed more of all four.
You can read the transcript or watch a video of the President delivering his remarks, made at James Day Park in Parma, Ohio. This stop was his last public speaking event of the day after multiple other stops in Ohio, all part of the Obama Bus Tour, complete with Ground Force One - the tripped out rolling home for presidents (note, however, as does the Wall Street Journal, that the campaign is paying for the trip). My tweets tell the story of the Parma stop, while my journalist friend at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Henry Gomez, covered all of the Ohio visits.
Why, at this point, would anyone who follows politics as much as I do, attend one of these highly choreographed and usually tightly scripted media-ready occasions? Especially when we are on the umpteenth day of 95 degree and 95% humidity weather, with a good mix of thunderstorm threats?
The short version: I'm a political junkie. Let's just call it what it is. And my schedule could kind of sort of accommodate it.
But the long version? Summed up in a word: curiosity.
The record will show (among the myriad posts at my personal blog, Writes Like She Talks), that I was one of the lukewarmest of souls when it came to voting for Obama in 2008. I wasn't even a big Hillary fan -- I just wasn't (I was a Joe Biden supporter; please don't ever think I was a John Edwards type -- never, ever, much to the dismay of several family members).
Still, it was pretty cool to be at a table with ten other bloggers in 2006 and interview Senator Obama at the Ohio Democratic Party's state dinner. And it was pretty cool to be at an indoor rally at Cuyahoga County Community College in 2007 in the middle of a wretched winter storm to hear Senator Obama announce that he would be running for U.S. president. And it was beyond pretty cool when I was credentialed for the 2008 Obama-Clinton primary debate in Cleveland and won a seat in the audience through a lottery.
But I've gone all this time without a hankering to see him, in his presidential role, up close and personal. So why now?
July 6, 2012 - Akron, OH, USA - Jim DiFalco, from left, and Rick Nixon and Keith Ross, far right, chat with President Barack Obama during a breakfast stop at Ann's Place in Akron, Ohio, Friday, July 6, 2012, on Obama's two-day campaign bus trip in Ohio and Pennsylvania. (Credit Image: © Ed Suba Jr/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Again, hard to say precisely but, given that I've never been a die-hard Obama join-er, I've been very eager to gauge for myself what exactly it feels like out there. In particular, because of the oversaturation of cable news and online punditry, you'd think that people are being threatened with water torture if they don't show up for Obama events or won't voice support for Obama. Article after article claim that Jews don't support him like they used to, there's supposedly wiggle room with Latinos and Hispanics and Allen West says African-Americans will give up on Obama because of his support for same-sex marriage. Furthermore, this article declares that so few white people support Obama that there's no way he can win. And even women are supposedly up for grabs after given Obama a huge gender gap in 2008.
So, although going to a 1,000-person event labeled as "grassroots" isn't exactly the place to get an unbiased view into what is exactly going on, I have to tell you, if the candidate's attitude is any reflection of the inside story on the election, Obama will win in November no matter all this slicing, dicing, and microtargeting.
First, he had no teleprompter. Second, he'd had a bottle of beer (though it's not clear how many). And third, he simply was not overconfident, arrogant, mean, or preoccupied with speaking about his opponent, former Massachusetts governor and presumptive Republican candidte for president, Mitt Romney. He definitely spent plenty of time comparing and contrasting, but unlike what I have been reading in some op-ed pieces, Obama is not running from his record, he is not running from bad numbers about anything in particular related to his last four years. He is, as I believe he has always been, very pragmatic: the voters have a choice. The choice is between two very different visions of how to improve conditions -- economic, social and all things American, you might say. He wants voters to choose and he is exhorting anyone and everyone he can to go do that.
As someone who has run for office, honestly? Especially when the going gets rough, this is what you do: you stay on message, you keep it simple stupid, and you play to your strengths.
Raising money would be good. But having your opponent make bad choices -- like having a photo of him and his wife jet skiing during what looks like a luxe vacation, at a compound they actually own - isn't bad, especially when it's an unforced error, made in the same news cycle as when the conservative editorial board of the Wall Street Journal pounds on that same opponent.
Still, Obama can't give this same speech all that much longer, just as said opponent Romney can't keep whining about how bad he thinks Obama is, suggesting only that getting rid of him will solve everything.
I don't know if I'll be attending anymore live events, for either candidate, even though I know they will be in Ohio many more times before election day. Would you go?
More from entertainment