(Image via California Majority Report)
I just got back from the 10,000+ person Obama rally in downtown Oakland. I can't say as I actually saw the senator — but I saw the Obamanon.
City Hall plaza was filled to overflowing with curious onlookers. Markedly young. Markedly affluent. Markedly un-hippie like, apart from the predictably dredlocked smattering of Berkeley bohemians. From where I was standing the only people who could actually see Obama were the ones who scrambled atop the local TV news satellite trucks, or shimmied up light posts.
Obama's stump performance was alternately folksy-intimate and oratorically soaring. He would chat around in circles for a while, until you almost started to worry he'd lost his audience, but he'd then he'd rile the crowd with a stirring string of rat-tat-tat-tat sentences. "We know what to do." ... [insert universal health care promise] "We know what to do" [insert No Child Left Behind bashing] "We know what to do." [insert call to end the occupation of Iraq]. And soon the same faces that seemed bored by Barack's yarn, were roaring, heartstrings wrapped around his little finger.
As a stump speech goes it was better than good. Stirring enough that there were grown soccer moms crying as they left the rally. There's the taste of trancendence in Obama's performance. But just a taste. It's a tease almost. It leaves you wanting him to be even more of a presence than he is. So that when parts of his speech are merely good, fine, it's ... disappointing.
But if you're Hillary or John Edwards or Bill Richardson, this kind of movement going to be hard to match. And, incidentally, this isn't a repeat of the weirdly offputting Deaniac following. This crowd looked good. Handsome. Earnest. Interested. Fresh. Not unlike the man they'd come to see.
And Obama took full advantage — the event was free to the public, but to get into the plaza you had to fill in your email address and phone number on a ticket stub.
Forget that he drew a mob. He got their digits too.