And the Moose Nugget Award Goes to…..

5 10 2008

I attended both Presidential candidates’ rallies in Anchorage yesterday.

Obama-Biden rally – Approximately 1200 rally-goers, lots of homemade signs, voter registration, postcard writing, live band, t-shirt/button sales with long lines, lots of families and dogs (some with signs), outside on the Park Strip.  Noticeable racial diversity in the crowd.

Focus of rally:  Hope, change, moving forward, getting out the vote, labor, women’s issues, health care, the economy, veterans, Alaska natives.

McCain-Palin rally – Approximately 250ish rally-goers, hundreds of empty chairs, pre-printed campaign signs, t-shirt/button sales, high school band, very few kids, no dogs, inside in a cavernous convention hall.

Focus of rally:  Terrorism, military, fear of those who “hate us”, Obama rally is angry and filled with hate, think of all that Alaska will get if Sarah is elected, oil, get out the vote, war.  Noticeable lack of racial diversity in the crowd.

The front of the room at the Palin rally.  Slideshow at right.

Yes, I am an Obama supporter.  Yes, I had a rollicking good time at the Obama rally.  Yes, I found the McCain-Palin rally empty (on many levels) and depressing.  But trying really really hard to be “objective”, that was my take of what I observed.

Here’s my beef.  The Anchorage Daily News covered the McCain-Palin rally, as you would expect they would.  But, they did not cover the Obama rally.  The article on the cover of today’s Anchorage Daily News entitled Pro-Palin Rally Gets Surprise Guests had 535 words.  489 of them were about the McCain-Palin rally, the surprise pop-in from Todd and Piper Palin, and included quotes and observations from the rally-goers.  44 of those words were about the Obama-Biden rally….the rally with four times as many attendees; the rally that flew in the face of Sarah-mania on her home turf; the rally that showed the rest of the country that there is significant support for a Democratic candidate in the state of Alaska.  There were no quotes or interviews.  Here are the 44 words:

The Saturday [Palin] rally had plenty of competition downtown as Alaska supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama held a rally and voter registration drive on the chilly Delaney Park Strip nearby.  Hundreds of Obama fans crowded sidewalks and waved signs as cars streamed by.

Two sentences.

The Obama-Biden rally was the largest rally for a presidential candidate in Alaskan history.  There were similar rallies held all across Alaska, with hundreds in attendence  in Fairbanks, on the Kenai Penninsula, and even in Juneau!  In a state where it can be politically risky to “out” yourself as a progressive-sympathizer, a Palin opponent, or…(gulp)…an Obama “operative” as the McCain campaign is fond of calling anyone with a sign, this was incredible.  It was, I would argue, the biggest political news of the day.

Alaskans know Sarah Palin, and they just voted with their feet, and their Saturday afternoon.  Where did they go?  4 to 1 they went to the Obama rally.  Now, don’t get me wrong, McCain and Palin may still win this state.  She’s got the “home team right or wrong” vote, she’s got the “Alaska will get more stuff” vote, she’s got the “underinformed voter” vote, and she’s got the extreme Evangelical vote.  But she does not have the enthusiastic, engaged, willing to turn out, get off the couch, and do something vote.  And those are usually the people that actually make a difference.  So kudos to the Alaska Obama campaign for pulling it off, and doing it with positive energy, hard work, and style.  So, in my world, here’s the headline in the Anchorage Daily News that you deserve.

Obama Rally Dwarfs Palin Rally in Anchorage. Surprising Lack of Support for Governor.

In closing,  my newly invented “Moose Nugget” award goes to the Anchorage Daily News.  Not because they didn’t do their job, but because they only did half of it.


McCain Palin Rally vs. Obama Biden Rally in Anchorage! The Blow by Blow.

4 10 2008

Once again, there were duelling rallies here in Anchorage.  The McCain-Palin rally was held in the just-completed Dena’ina Convention Center in downtown Anchorage.  The Obama rally was held outside, just a couple blocks away, at the Delaney Park Strip.

One would think that the Republican rally celebrating the hometown girl, in her very very red state would have drawn a huge crowd, and that the Obama rally would be a few brave intrepid souls with a couple signs shivering by the side of the road.  One would be wrong.

The Obama rally was all set up and running when I arrived – tents, face painting, t-shirt sales, voter registration, postcard writing to swing states, a huge stage and sound system.  By 1:00, there were more than a thousand people milling around with signs, kids, dogs and huge smiles.  This was definitely a feel-good place.  Hundreds lined the roadside waving signs to appreciative honking motorists, and hundreds more milled around the tent area.  Anchorage mayoral candidate and former legislator Eric Croft got up and spoke, so did Kat Pustay who’s heading up the Obama campaign in the state.  Then came Ethan Berkowitz, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House seat currently held by Don Young.  Ethan welcomed his “fellow revolutionaries”. The crowd went wild.

I looked at my watch.  It was after 1:30 and I knew if I didn’t get to the McCain Palin rally soon, I’d never go.  So I ripped myself away from all the positive energy and the fresh air, and hurried over to the Dana’ina Center.  3 people stood outside waving signs.  I figured I had to smile, so I did.  “Come on in, we’re having a rally!” one of them effused. I took a big cleansing breath, and in I went.

I just had a feeling this rally wasn’t going to have as big a crowd as the Obama rally, because the rally that was held for Palin herself, when she was in Anchorage a few weeks ago only had about 500 people show up.  But I walked into the room and I really was stunned.  I felt like I had entered an empty chair convention.  It was really bad.  I actually felt sorry for the organizers for a minute, before I snapped myself out of it.   A head count yielded about 250-300 people.  Clearly they had been hoping for more.

Jack Frost, local voice-over guy and conservative Republican who got trounced by Mark Begich in the last Anchorage mayoral race, was the emcee.  Literally right as I sat down he was announcing the “special guest”….a phone call from Sarah Palin!  Her voice was piped in over the loudspeakers, and there was a slide up on a screen showing her photo-op with Henry Kissinger.  I have to say, it was a bit jarring sitting there hearing the ‘giant voice’ of Sarah Palin filling the room.  She didn’t say much.  It was a bunch of “Gee, I miss you guys…  I heard there were a few flakes today.  I miss that weather.  It’s been so amazeen travelin’ across this great country and meetin’ people, and even Alaskans down here also as we travel across the country also meetin’ people…  I miss you guys SOOO much.”

A lady scooted up to me and said, “We’d really like everyone to be up at the front and towards the center, not all spread out.”  Ah…can’t have the news cameras getting all those chairs.  I scooted up and way over to the side so I wouldn’t get on film.

Then the emcee reminded us about how much Alaska would “get” if Palin was the VP, and also reminded us that our enemies hate us because of our way of life, and our freedoms, and “all they want to do is kill American soldiers”.  Then he said the only thing the rally was missing was “an effigy of Katie Couric.”  (Felt pocket for Tums….left them home.)

And look, there’s Meg Stapleton sitting among the empty chairs.

Next up was a local Republican legislative candidate, Bob Lewis,  who told the crowd he had driven past “that other rally” on his way in, and how the people were just full of hate, and anger and fear, and that “we” (the Palin rally) were the ones having a good time.  “So,” he told us, “you need to decide which side you want to be on!”

That was it for me.  Had to leave.  On the way out I noticed clip boards with the “support Palin” petition.  Someone behind the table said that this was “against those people” (described as ‘Obama operatives’) who were smearing Palin and that “we just want to support her.”  I didn’t sign….being an “operative” and all.

Back out into the fresh air, and down the street where signs were still waving.  As I crossed the street there were police cars, and I noticed several very large piles of something in the middle of the road.  The road had actually been closed off from traffic….  at first I thought it was cement, but then I looked closer and it was….mud!  It looked for all the world like muflats mud! Done on purpose to keep visibility of the rally low?  Strange coincidence?  A message to Mudflatters?   I have no explanation for that one…

Crossed the street, and there I was again, back at the rally of “hate, anger and fear” listening to a great local band, and watching kids with painted faces dancing in the grass, smiling people registering voters, busy postcard-writers, cheering sign-wavers, and a community brought together by a shared desire to move the country in a new direction.

Clearly I was at the right rally.