Monday, August 25, 2008
Thousands turn out for Obama Springfield rally to take part in history - Ottawa Daily Times
Special to The Times
SPRINGFIELD - I began the week preparing for an extended stay away from home covering both the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Before the week was out, I was preparing for a detour at the beginning of my political odyssey, and I hadn't arrived at the first convention.
When word came down earlier in the week that Sen. Barack Obama was planning a rally at the Old Capitol building in Springfield, most reporters knew it could mean only one thing. There was no specific indication in the initial e-mail from the campaign this would be the introduction of Obama's running mate and the unveiling of the ticket that will take his campaign into the November elections.
By the time I arrived in Springfield Friday night to prepare for the Saturday rally, that choice was still a mystery to the media speculating on television about who it might be and those who were beginning to set up to cover Saturday's main event.
In the restaurant at the bottom of the Springfield Hilton, instead of sports programming on the monitors around the bar, CNN was on. For me, there would be no text message from Obama's campaign, no e-mail in my inbox in time to warn me. I found out from Larry King, who introduced the breaking news that Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was Obama's choice for VP.
I did happen to receive a phone call in the middle of the night, which I assumed might be the delayed text message or announcement. It indeed was an announcement of the VP pick, only from a friend in New Mexico who wanted to make sure I heard the news in the event I had slept through the most anticipated news story this summer.
I awoke early Saturday to prepare for the 2 p.m. rally. By the time I arrived at 6 a.m. to set up my camera equipment near the stage, most of the risers for the media were filled with cameras. We were asked to leave the area between 9 and 11 a.m. to allow a security sweep of our equipment. Luckily I had two cameras with me, and I set off for the growing line of Obama supporters who were waiting for the gates to open for the rally.
Springfield native Chris Trudeau had the distinction of being the first person in line. He arrived at 8 p.m. the day before -- well before the news broke that Biden was the VP pick -- and by the time I caught up with him some 13 hours later, he didn't seem the least bit tired.
Trudeau was a pro at this line-waiting thing ... he did the same thing back in February 2007 when Obama launched his campaign, also from the Old State Capitol.
Winding around four city blocks of downtown Springfield were all those who came after Trudeau this time around. At each corner, vendors and salesmen peddled election-related memorabilia. At the Official Obama Merchandise store, workers were busy putting up newly made shirts and buttons that now included Biden's name, just below Obama's. Sitting in the shade near these vendors, playing "Go Fish" with a deck of Obama playing cards, was Beth Mosher from Sandwich.
She and her husband brought their three children to witness the historic occasion. In our interview, she explained how her husband recently lost his job, which she attributes to the loss of manufacturing jobs in Illinois and corporate downsizing. That was the big reason she and her family are supporting Obama and why they were thrilled to learn Joe Biden is on the ticket.
Mosher and her family pin the hopes of their future on the success of Obama's campaign promise to bring jobs back to America.
This is a theme Obama touched on briefly in his introduction of Biden on the stage in front of the Old Capitol later that afternoon. In the sweltering heat and humidity, Obama described Biden as a man who understands the troubles facing the American middle class, as the son of an Irish Catholic, working-class family from Scranton, Pa., who has proven himself as a champion of the workers from his home state of Delaware.
Both speeches by Obama and Biden focused largely on biography, which is the reason Obama chose the Delaware senator as his running mate. It's why critics, including Republican challenger John McCain and longtime friend of Biden's, say the selection of Biden supports their argument Obama isn't experienced enough to lead the country.
By the time the speech was over and the pundits and talk radio personalities began to weigh in, a catchphrase had already taken root that explained Biden's selection and real value to the Democratic ticket in November -- "Attack Dog."
It was something Chris Trudeau, an ardent Obama supporter, agreed would help him win in November.
"Biden will be able to put across those more aggressive messages that just don't seem palatable when Obama does it."
The next time the two senators appear together will be in just a few days during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Obama has a full campaign schedule in the days leading up to his appearance and acceptance speech.
The buzz surrounding the occasion seems to focus on the historic aspect of Obama's campaign and his presumptive nomination. This makes the opportunity to cover Obama's effort to win the White House in November an exciting news story I feel privileged to cover. It's also why I can appreciate Chris Trudeau's dedication to wait in line for almost 20 hours for the rally or why Mosher and her family traveled from Sandwich to see Obama in person. There's a sense history is in the making this election cycle, and what happens in November could shape more than just the next four years. It could have far-reaching effects on future generations, and more and more people want to be able to say they were there when it happened. I'm no exception.
Kane Farabaugh is a Midwest-based TV and radio correspondent with Voice of America (www.voanews.com). He is covering the 2008 Presidential election for VOA. A 1995 graduate of Ottawa Township High School, Farabaugh recently returned to Ottawa, where he now lives with his family. He's worked for various commercial TV stations as a reporter and anchor as well as the American Forces Network Europe based in Germany. The views expressed in this column are Farabaugh's and do not represent the views of Voice of America.