John Smart

Obama in friendly territory

By - Sep 30th, 2010 04:00 am
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President Barack Obama is surrounded by the La Follette Lancers high school football team in Madison. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

The New York Times had an interesting “morning after” article about the rally with President Obama on the Library Mall at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on Tuesday. The rally was a big deal — no doubt about that. Campus police estimated the crowd at 26,500, but it looked even larger as I watched it online – perhaps because the attendees were so animated!

The President arrived at Madison’s Truax Field and was greeted by Jessica Doyle, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, Madison’s “Mayor Dave” and Julie Lassa, who is running to succeed Dave Obey in the congress.

The President’s motorcade made a surprise stop at Robert M. La Follette High School in Madison, where he spoke with a number of students, the  football team, volleyball players and more.  A pool reporter described the stop with “Lots of shrieking – ‘Oooh myyy God!  It’s the President!'”  It was singularly appropriate that he visited a school named for Wisconsin’s great progressive leader.

Obama may well be the most popular with the younger generation of any president since John F. Kennedy, and the possibility that he may accomplish much for those generations is very encouraging.

His speech — perhaps “performance” is a better description — on the UW campus was a true stemwinder, and the crowd responded with enthusiasm. Obama was definitely among friends.

This may be the first time that he has delivered a true campaign speech/performance for the upcoming election, and he was in full campaign mode.

“I’m going to get out there and fight as hard as I can — and I know that you are too!”  He used the familiar images he has used before — of a Republican Party that “ran the car into the ditch,” that now asks to have the keys back.

“No!  They can’t have the keys back.  They don’t know how to drive!”  It’s expected that even more candidates will now be taking up that cry.

Obama is determined to lead the charge in the last weeks of the campaign, and his actions are very welcome to most Democratic candidates across the nation.  To be sure, there are some who are frightened  by the President’s 50/50 standing in the popularity polls, but most candidates are excited by his zeal in jumping into the campaign. Even Russ Feingold, who has missed Obama’s two previous visits to the state this summer, found time to fly back from Washington to attend the rally.

Obama told the crowd that he dismisses the polls and approval ratings.

“You didn’t elect me to look at the polls. You elected me to do what was right.”

Before and after his visit to Madison, the President participated in a number of “back yard” get-togethers with people in New Mexico, Iowa and Virginia — all of which have been extensively covered by the news media. It seems clear that he intends to do a lot more campaigning between now and November, so the election could well end up being a referendum on his presidency.

Such is usually the case in a mid-term election, after all.

Categories: Politics

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