Despite our near total lack of delegates, Presidential-types have been campaigning in our little state. Last week, it was here that Clinton gave her sarcastic "the skies will open" remarks. Saturday Obama came here to mock her mocking him. McCain and Huckabee even came to visit both of the Republicans who live here. There have been radio and TV ads on non-stop. It is quite a thing to see anyone campaigning for president here. I certainly can't remember the last time anyone actually cared how we voted. So starved for attention are we that when Kennedy gave a speech downtown in 1960, we named the plaza after him.
Judging by that, I wouldn't be so surprised if we renamed Rhode Island College "Obama Island College." I went to see him there last weekend and I must say, it lived up to the hype surrounding his rallies in every way. There were so many people that it took at least 2 hours to get inside. The line coiled through 2 parking lots when we arrived and was soon snaking down a hill and out of sight. It is estimated 10,000 people showed up, but only half were able to get in. Because of the high-number of umbrella-related assaults every year, people were forced to abandon them outside the doors. When we finally did, it was packed shoulder to shoulder and despite the fact that everyone there had been on their feet for about 3 hours already, the crowd was so enraptured that they would have strangled every Clinton voter in the state, with their bare hands, if asked. At least I would have. It is predicted that Sen. Clinton will carry RI tomorrow, and if I had to, I would probably bet on it, but after seeing the excitement surrounding Barack's only visit I would be surprised if it isn't close. With such a small electorate, the movement of a few thousand voters translates into a fairly large percentage.
The RI Attorney General gave a good speech in which he referred to Barack as "President Obama" at least twice, probably not by accident, and implored the crowd to "suck it up and get it done" like a tough-but-fair JV hockey coach. Then, in what was probably the most comical moment of the day, Rep. Patrick "Patches" Kennedy came out and delivered 5 minutes of screechy, overheated oratory by way of introduction. It was funny because of how incongruous it was -- instead of working his way up to a frenzied pitch, he just strode out, turned his volume all the way up, and hit us like a wall. He sounded a lot like an exasperated Gene Wilder, come to think of it. Since he and Obama addressed the people stranded outside beforehand, he may have already been worked up, but it still just sounded as though he had spent the morning shouting at the top of his lungs for practice. Ironically, he was talking about the importance of inspirational verbal skills in the political process.
Rhetoric-wise it was pretty much the standard stump speech of the past few months, for those familiar with it. Probably my favorite moment was his shout-out to our former-Republican, former-Senator, permanent-bad-ass Lincoln Chafee (who was about 20 people in front of me in the line to get in).
Real change isn't voting for George Bush's war in Iraq and then telling the American people it was actually a vote for more diplomacy when you start running for president. The title of the bill was `A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.' I knew what it was, Lincoln Chafee knew what it was! [Crowd erupts] It was a vote for war. Linc Chafee knew the score!
The only thing missing was some actual references to Rhode Island. In fact, he mentioned Texas twice, presumably due to exhaustion (which it is hard to blame him for). I was disappointed though that in his 10 minute soliloquy about "hope" he didn't make the connection to our state's motto. The crowd, at least the native RI-fraction of it, was waiting for this, and it just never happened. It was actually possible to hear individual people shouting "Hope is our state motto!" and "Look at the flag!" during quiet moments, so frustrated were they by the absence of this obvious observation.
Still though, it was a barnburner. If he is elected, people will surely remember events like these for many years.
Projo, RIFuture, ProvidenceDailyDose