#31 My First Convention

On August 27, 2008

Hello Everyone,

I am attending my first, and probably only, political convention. I’m here because of my once-every-forty-years enthusiasm for a candidate (remember, Bobby was the last one). I also bring an amateur anthropologist’s curiosity to this most curious of clan gatherings.

This will be brief as I am pecking it out on my beloved BlackBerry.

Last night, sitting on the convention floor among the Illinois delegation, I was impressed by the manic atmosphere. One of the many roving reporters (I was actually interviewed and photographed by the Christian Science Monitor) who was a veteran convention-goer told me that the high level of enthusiasm at this convention was distinctly different from what she had previously experienced.

So far, I have found the delegates to be surprisingly ordinary people thrust into a frenzied, exhausting situation surrounded by security of Olympian proportions. Each night I have wondered how the fire marshal has allowed so many people to be packed in to what is a now-common modern basketball arena. Thank God for the ability to escape to a skybox as a member of the National Finance Committee.

Yesterday morning, I attended one of the endless panels offering opinions about the proceedings. This one turned out to be refreshingly useful. The panelists actually said more than once that they “didn’t know” the answer to a question. Amazing.

They offered a couple of particularly useful insights. Despite what the mass reporting will lead us to expect, there will be no way to discern a polling “bounce”, or lack thereof, from this convention because the Republican convention begins, contrary to custom, immediately on its heels. It won’t be until the dust settles in mid-September that the national polls (which are pretty useless anyway) are affected by what happened here.

They also made another great point: the mass media are so anxiously, and selfinterestedly, anticipating a Clinton car crash here that they are missing the real, but much more boring, story – the one about the ground game that the Obama campaign is quietly putting in place. That ground game is greatly, and positively, impacted by two factors — supporter enthusiasm and cash. I expect that we will continue to have both in abundance. I also expect that Barack’s ground operations in an historically-large number of states – possibly nearly double the number that Kerry was in – will be a decisive factor in the general election — much like they were in the primary, much to the surprise of the mass media.

The media coverage of this causes me to return to the baseball analogy I used throughout the primary. We almost never see singles in game highlights on TV – only homeruns or hit batters rushing the pitcher’s mound. But, most games are won by manufacturing runs one boring hit at a time. The ground game.

The panel also asked the question — who is more divided, the Democrats or the Republicans? Very good question. Also, whatever happened to all of the talk about Sen. Clinton being a controversial candidate with unusually high negatives?

As I was leaving that briefing, I ran in to David Brooks, who I last met with at his 25th reunion at the University of Chicago a few weeks ago. Coincidentally, he had made some customarily perceptive observations in his column yesterday morning (see attachment). He reminded us that about a year ago Barack was stagnant in the polls (I think he was actually trailing badly) and he got all sorts of unsolicited advice from his nervous supporters and assorted experts. I remember writing in an Obamagram to cool it; that he would be fine. David offers the same advice: to ignore the anxious advice of the “experts” in his party and be himself. I am, once again, confident in Barack’s judgment, that he will be as smart in the general as he was in the primary. I expect a very good outcome in this election.

From just one observer’s point of view, I think the highlights of this convention so far have been — in sequential order — the Kennedys, Michelle Obama, Gov. Schweitzer, and Sen. Clinton.

Michelle was flawless and tremendously appealing in vouching for Barack as a family man with all-American values.

Schweitzer, who I had never heard of, was the real keynote speaker, not Gov. Warner, in my opinion. He gave the most rousing speech so far. Just fabulous.

The most memorable characterizations of Sen. McCain from last night:

  • “The Minnesota Twins: Bush and McCain” (my slightly-revised version, alluding to the site of the Republican convention next week.)
  • Sen. McCain is a “Sidekick, not a Maverick” given that he has voted with Bush 95% of the time.
  • “McCain’s more of the same” or, better yet, “McCain’s the Same.”

Well, my thumbs are tired, so that’s enough from Denver for now. My wife, Penny, arrives today for the final two nights. This should continue to be fun, and instructive, watching the natives in their habitat.

As always, please “pass it along”.


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adobe pdf file Attachment: The 21st-Century Man


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