Sunday, January 20, 2008

Meeting Her In St. Louie

"We're going to be picking a president on February 5th"

FLORISSANT, Mo. -- The city's mayor didn't seem to mind.

And neither did the eager crowd.

But after some of them waited to see Hillary Clinton for more than four hours in a cramped high school gymnasium Saturday night, their favorite candidate failed to even mention their hometown by name.

"I sent out the call to meet me in St. Louie," Clinton said.

"St. Louis is so much the center of what built America," she added, both times ignoring the fact that she was really standing in Florissant, a suburb just north of the city.

Sure, it's a minor point. But Clinton's visit to Florissant may forecast the eventual battleground in Election 2008 -- those ever-growing suburbs.

"I want Missouri to be blue in November 2008," Clinton said to cheers and sharp whistles in the crowd of several thousands. If true, she'll need to pick up independent voters in areas like this one.

But first, she might want to try getting to her events on time. Or within the hour. Or two. "This is what we call Clinton time," joked State Democratic Party Chair John Temporiti, as he tried to entertain the restless but patient audience. Bottled water and packages of Doritos occupied the crowd this time. But next time people may just get annoyed.

Clinton's event was scheduled for an 8 p.m. start. But a close, confusing and contentious caucus victory in Nevada complicated her schedule. "Estimated time of arrival is 9:30," an advance press person told reporters at around quarter to 8.

But really, Bill and Hil landed on stage right at 10 p.m. No accident there. Right as the local news stations hit air, St. Louis microwave trucks beamed back shots of screaming supporters and the glowing Clintons.

The campaign estimated 6,000 people showed up for the rally. But national reporters rolled their eyes when they heard that. Couldn't be that many. The gym packed in at least 2-thousand, (including St. Louis University head basketball coach Rick Majerus.) An overflow crowd watched the speech in the foyer. It's doubtful 4-thousand people were standing in the hallway.

Either way, the crowd was big. And when former President Clinton hopped on stage, he gave them what they wanted. "Eleven days ago people were dancing on Hillary's grave," Clinton said before pausing for a split-second. "They've got another thing coming now," he finished, to shrieks and yelps from the largely-female crowd.

"If we had never married, and she asked me to be here tonight, I'd be here," Clinton said of his wife. (Which made me wonder for a second where either of them would be today if they had not married -- or even met.)

After briefly noting her Nevada victory, a hoarse Hillary began strolling through her stump speech. "I'm confident, I'm optimistic and I'm determined," she said. With an ear to the news cycle, Hillary shrewdly targeted her remarks to the economy.

That tax code that favors the wealthy? She'll scrap it. "We're going to get back to fair. We know it when we see it, and we haven't seen enough of it the last seven years," Clinton said.

She railed against tax credits for companies that later ship jobs overseas and tax subsidies for oil companies. As a practical example, Clinton tied together the issue of economic development and our reliance on foreign oil. She mentioned that there's a growing demand for solar panels, especially in Germany. Someone needs to construct the solar panels. Someone needs to install them. These are ripe job opportunities that help the environment and improve our position in the world --- all at the same time! "Germany's climate is not much different than St. Louis," Clinton said, attempting to square the circle.

Clinton was confident talking about health care. She wants to replicate the plan Congress gets nationwide. She seems fully prepared for fastball that will be thrown high and tight. "I don't know what the other side will say. They going to say its socialized medicine? Are they going to force people to ask their Congressman if they have socialized medicine?," Clinton challenged.
(Of course not).

Her calls to "end the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind" and to "end the war in Iraq" received some of the biggest applause of the night. Clinton also touted a transparent government, with bloggers in the bureaucracy.

Her speech was classic Clinton. A check-list of policy positions on the main issues of the day. Meat and potatoes. Not exactly soaring rhetoric. No wet eyes in the house. But real-world issues. She never mentioned Barack Obama during her address, but she clearly attempted to frame the debate around her pledge to be specific on details -- from day one.

"I think we need a president who is hands-on, not hands-off, after what we've lived through these last seven years," Clinton said.

After the speech, it was time to get closer. As I inched my way towards the ropeline, I was instructed by a mediahand -- "No questions on the ropeline." I played by the rules. Just a few pics for the blog.

But the people. The people wanted pictures, handshakes, autographs . . . and more. The closer Bill and Hill got -- the more people pushed. That's when a large secret service agent stepped in. This guy was hardcore. And apparently willing to do the dirty work.

He told people in plain-terms, they probably wouldn't get to shake hands with the Clintons if they weren't in the first row. "Life sucks sometimes," he deadpanned. He also warned to move back, and not push or get too close. "Because if you push, I'll push back, and it won't be a pretty scene. And I'll win."

Boom. Just remember, most of the people pushing are women and children. This guy didn't care. His job is to protect the prez and a potential one -- and he obviously takes his job very seriously.

But looking at some of these people's dejected but determined faces, I started to wonder if they'd rather have universal health care or a picture with Bill.

1 comment:


Zoiks... with Majerus there, it had to be more like 1000.

(oops, did I say that?)

And with motorcade and all... I bet traffic trouble in the Valley of the Flowers was a wee bit nasty.