Getting to the Philadelphia-based political rally at which President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appeared yesterday required attendees to navigate through some of the City of Brotherly Love’s most distressed neighborhoods, presenting a sobering reminder of the economic challenges facing most of America. Lining the streets en route to the rally were also some of the most enthusiastic local residents, excited over President Obama’s selection of their developing, yet economically challenged, community to come speak and stump for state Congressional mid-term election candidates.
The purpose of the series of “Moving America Forward” rallies organized by the Democratic National Committee is to invigorate the Democratic base of registered voters in a richly Democratic state which includes some of the 5 million African Americans that came out in droves to help elect the President to office in 2008.
Obama reused some of the language from previous rallies designed to encourage the electorate and Democratic base to “stay fired up” and to get out to the polls on November 2nd.
“Republicans are bad drivers who took the economy into a ditch,” he reiterated. “And they say, we want the keys back. Philadelphia, they can’t have the keys back. They don’t know how to drive! They can ride with us if they want, but they got to get in the back seat.”
The President spoke through a raspy voice, which was probably a result of his very busy schedule of late, which involves him traveling around the country stumping for various Congressional mid-term election candidates. The Democrats are challenged to bridge the so-called “enthusiasm gap” between their party voters and likely Republican voters, with a goal of getting Democrats to the polls in droves to head off the predicted Republican take-over of the House of Representatives.
The energy of the crowd on a warm but crisp autumn day was electrifying. Many were just as excited to see the President as they were to enjoy the opening performance from Hip Hop group, The Roots. Other speakers at yesterday’s rally were Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato, Democratic Senator Bob Casey, Democratic Congressman and Senate candidate Joe Sestak, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Vice President Joe Biden. Elliot Griffin, a junior at Temple University, also spoke eloquently of her organizing efforts at Temple and her support for President Barack Obama.
The president’s message headlined to a crowd of 18,500 that responded overwhelmingly with cheers and energy.
“I think the pundits are wrong. I think we’re going to win. But you’ve got to prove them wrong,” Obama said. “They’re counting on you staying home. If that happens they win.”
The event was not without unplanned hiccups. According to The Weekly Standard, 24 year old Juan James Rodriguez streaked the address and may have been put up to the stunt by the website battlecam.com offering a million dollars to anyone able to streak naked within President Obama’s view. It is unclear whether the President even noticed the man.
Also, after the speech as the President walked off the stage, video accounts of the event shows a book being hurled at the president’s direction. The organizers assure neither incident affected the overall message.
Indeed, judging by the response from most in the audience it is apparent that the President still has his Rock star appeal and is still able to motivate a large crowd. “What they’re counting on is you’re going to stay home,” the President declared. “They’re counting on your silence. They’re counting on your apathy. Philly, let’s prove ’em wrong!”
Only time will tell whether the message is able to translate into higher than expected voter-turnout.