Thursday, July 16, 2009

Barack Obama/Corzine (09!) Rally

I just got back from my trip to Orlando today at 4:30 AM but....I am not blogging about that just yet. I'll try to do that tonight or tomorrow.

What I did today might be one better. I got a chance to attend my first political rally. Those who know me know how much I love politics but somehow I had never taken the opportunity to go to a rally or a protest. Well I finally put that to rest today. I should mention that I am not a NJ voter. I am not even an American voter. I was born and raised in Pakistan and then lived in Toronto, Canada and thus hold Canadian citizenship.

President Barack Obama was in New Jersey to campaign for Governor Jon Corzine. Despite every attempt by the unorganized Corzine team the event did turn out great. Little advice to the Governor's team (and pretty much anyone else organizing an event of this scale....and involving the President of the United States) might be a good idea to fill in the staff, security and volunteers about what is actually going on so they can keep the crowd under control and not create chaos.

The rally was originally supposed to take place at Rutgers University (more on that in a bit). Then they changed it to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. Some genius at the Corzine camp it turns out thought that it would be a great idea to not accept the RSVPs done by excited Obama fans like myself. What that created was just pure chaos.

I got there around 11 AM and that is when parking opened. I didn't make it in to my seat until 2:30 PM. You do the math. It seemed like the staff and volunteers through no fault of their own were just winging it as they went along. I was in line at the will call window and just a few feet away when one of the volunteers looked at the RSVP I had in my hand and said that the piece of paper wasn't good enough and would not help me get in. He directed me to another line. About half an hour later a different volunteer moved the entire line from one spot to one a decent distance away. Fair enough. If that helps the crowd be it. But, just a little while later they moved the line AGAIN!. Then an actual paid employee of the campaign came up to us and said we could move over to the outdoor lawn area and watch on the big screen or stay in line for a shot at the tickets. I chose to stay in line. Along the way I met a wonderful couple who were in the same boat as me (I will edit in their names just as soon as I get in touch with them). The 3 of us and plenty of others decided to tough it out in the heat with the mindset that we had to get in. About 15 minutes later and about 50 yards away from the Secret Service checkpoint a member of the event staff announced that there were no more tickets and that we either had to watch from the lawn or go home. Keep in mind that a large chunk of those people had printed e-mails with their RSVP information. This couple got out and decided to head home. I decided to walk right around and take a shot. I got back into the line that was going to the security checkpoints. I got to the security checkpoint with the RSVP to be told that it was not good enough and I would have to go over to Will call. Yes, the same will call from which they moved me hours earlier. So I get back into line at will call and they tell me they don't have me on their list and told me they couldn't do anything for me. After a little arguing over the meaning of the term "RSVP" I decided to just go back home and watch on TV when I ran into the couple from earlier. They directed me to another member of the event staff who had what looked like hundreds of tickets in his hand. They had received two from him. I went up to the same man and without checking my RSVP or any ID he just asked me how many I needed. I was there by myself but requested 6 from him and got them. Four of them I was able to turn over really quickly to a family that had been in another line. The 5th one I ended up giving to this older woman (pictured below) who kept us entertained all through the wait process. How this woman had this energy in the heat and with all the chaos around us I'll never know but she was drawing a crowd. The atmosphere in the lines was electric. Just random people all in the same boat and making instant connections. There were stories being told by those fortunate enough to be at the inauguration and then there were many like me who just soaked it all in for the first time.

I got in and was amazed by how awesome my seats were. I just could not believe that after all the frustrations of the day a seat that good was actually available to this event.

The crowd despite the long wait was into it from the start. Published reports put the crowd size at 17,500 and it definitely felt that way. The energy was just amazing. The place was loud and buzzing even before the main event. I got a chance to speak to Christina Bellantoni, White House correspondent for the Washington Times and she said this crowd reminded of her of the Obama'08 campaign. Corzine kept his speech short and sweet. I know he's not exactly the most popular man in New Jersey but he is the right man for the job at this time. The economy is in shambles and I respect his background here. Depending on who you want to believe he probably was on the short list for Treasury Secretary.

I understand the uproar over the Rutgers University budget cuts but isn't that pretty much a sign of the times? Some like me even speculated whether the switch in location had anything to do with a potential Rutgers student protest. The school has been facing funding cuts for years while tuition goes up but does anyone really expect that to change under Christie? People here complain about the University expanding the football stadium by 12,000 seats this summer as the program grows every year but fail to understand that a large chuck of that is money that the athletic department raised. Not to mention how much money the football program brings in for the school. The exposure the team has received nationally via ESPN has helped bring in more and more students to the school. The school will have a record high in enrollment next year. One thing the large chunk of this decade has shown is that Republican leadership just didn't cut it. I want a Democratic governor, especially one with Corzine's financial background working with Obama. I have lived in Central NJ since 2000. I think the infrastructure here has improved dramatically over the last couple of years.

What has Christie ever done that impresses people? What exactly is his resume? He was a US Attorney nominated by George W. Bush....that alone should be reason to not vote for him. Did you guys love him approving the tracking of people via their cellphone GPS? How about his dealings with Ashcroft?

What is up with the video message from Christie today?

Barack Obama was just phenomenal. The man can hold any crowd anywhere in the palm of his hands. Even little scripted details like him taking off his jacket on a really hot day come across as genuine. The energy he brings to the table is amazing. He gave a shout out to Mayor Cory Booker of Newark. Keep an eye out for him. This man will be a senator or governor from NJ someday. Really happy that I did take the opportunity to go today. To borrow a little phrase from the campaign he had the crowd "fired up and ready to go". The ovation when he took the stage was just insane. There is no other way to describe it. That place was loud....about as loud as any outdoor facility can be. I really do hope he comes down here again this election cycle as it looks like we just maybe headed for a close election here. Just the announcement of him showing up got Corzine a 4 point bump in the polls and despite what some are saying he will get a major bump after this event.

I sat in a group that was pretty diverse. There were people who were old and young, black, brown, white...and everything in between. Looking around the section I was it just struck me right away how much the average person connects with Obama right away. I had these 2 guys sitting in front of me in a suit and tie who were fiddling around with their blackberries throughout the Obama speech while most of the other people spent most of the speech on their feet. Young and old alike.

People around the country should catch today's speech too. The President covered his health care plan in detail.

Corzine will definitely benefit from the Obama appearance. Definitely helped him raise some money today. I fully expect Obama to be back in NJ before November. The buzz around the place today was that Michelle Obama is coming next month. Who is the big name Republican that Christie can counter with?

A change from previous campaigns....Corzine is actively seeking campaign funds.

Probably will add more to this later but for now....all I can is that it was an amazing experience that everyone should take part in.

As always you can reach me here, by e-mail or via twitter.

Some Pictures:

My Seat

Marine One

From left to right....Me, some random guy, funny old woman (people just couldn't stop taking pictures of that hat), and the people who helped me get my seats.

Yes, that is Jon Corzine carrying away Obama's jacket when he took it off because of the heat. Completely made me think of that West Wing episode.

Me with Chritina Bellantoni of the Washington Times (who it turns out is a fellow 49ers fan)

Turns out that is Maureen Dowd of the Ny Times....appearantly she likes to show up to these things and hide.

The campaign has put up the speeches up on Youtube.

Jon Corzine

Barack Obama

By the People: The Election of Barack ObamaInside The Obama White House

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