Constitution Center Crowd Loves Michelle Obama—Others, Not So Much
Michelle Obama was in Philadelphia yesterday to rally a large group of campaign volunteers to sign up voters throughout the city, in hopes of securing President Barack Obama’s re-election in this swing state. The event began at 2:30 p.m. and featured several speakers before the first lady came on—all of whom were from either Philadelphia or, as in the case of Democratic Attorney General candidate Kathleen Kane, somewhere in Pennsylvania. But the crowded masses on the second floor of the Old City museum were there for one reason only.
Which is probably why there were gasps each time a speaker made his/her way to the stage, and even louder ones when that speaker began concluding his/her speech. Those speakers included District Attorney Seth Williams, the aforementioned Kane and Mayor Michael Nutter—the latter of whom was actually booed as he walked to the podium.
Over 1,000 people were in attendance for the event, which as billed as one to “remind voters and grassroots supporters about what’s at stake in this election, encourage them to register to vote, and thank them for their hard work to help re-elect President Obama in November.” It, too, was a rallying cry for President Obama’s accomplishments throughout his first term with the not-so-subtle implication that they all may go away if he loses re-election.
DA Williams noted toward the beginning of his quick speech: “My staff asked me if I needed talking points as to why we need to re-elect President Obama. Do you think I need talking points? Do you need talking points?”
“No!” the crowd screamed back.
He also referred to Michelle Obama as “wonderful, intelligent and beautiful,” before noting: “Truth be told, President Obama married up.” The reaction was a mix of laughs and cheers.
Williams introduced Kane—who was not energetic. Private conversations began about two minutes into her speech.
And she introduced Mayor Nutter, who came out to a mix of cheers and boos. In the back, I heard mostly boos. He noted that Pennsylvania needs to “re-energize” the Democrat party, then hit Romney on his performance as Massachusetts governor (47th out of 50 in job creation, Nutter noted) and said the United States is at its best when everyone plays by “the same rules.” I noted during a live Tweet (note: That happened) of the event that if Williams indeed did not have talking points on hand or in his head, Mayor Nutter certainly did.
“The First Lady of the United States of America will be here in about 45 minutes,” Nutter said, concluding his speech. The crowd was pretty let down as music came back on and the mayor got off stage.
But as promised, in about 45 minutes, the music (lots of pop punk, bizarrely) stopped and Erin Bell Thesing, a first-grade teacher in West Philadelphia, got on stage to remark about smaller class sizes. She got a huge pop just for having mentioned she’s a Philly school teacher.
Cheers went on for over a minute when the First Lady walked up and got on stage. Camera phones were fished from pockets all over and came across like a wall of tiny lights held over our heads to film the event. The first lady began by recognizing those pols and volunteers who introduced her, including the mayor — to which there were more boos, which came across as more of a pastime than having any real meaning.
It seemed hard for Obama to go three minutes in her half-hour speech without the crowd roaring, or, as was the case several times over, someone interrupting, screaming things like, “God bless you, Michelle.”
But what she got in was a pretty convincing campaign speech. She touted the president having helped kill Osama bin Laden, bringing more than 4 million jobs back to the economy, ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, passing the Health Care bill (and noting several pieces of it, to which the audience cheered) and fighting for the middle and working class.
Noting her bias, she just came out and called the president an “extraordinary man.” Many in the audience cried as she concluded her speech and about all were left with that for which they came: Inspiration to continue their work on the campaign.
“[Her speech] was wonderful, it was inspiring and we just have to get Barack back in there,” said Pauline Williams of Cobbs Creek, as the event let out. “If you were on the fence before, you better get off the fence and get your butt moving.”
A volunteer for the campaign, Williams was wore an American flag scarf around her neck. She noted she’s run into many people who do not have proper registration, but insisted she does not see the new Voter ID law in Pennsylvania as a problem. “We’ve got to canvas and do whatever we can to get them out,” she said.