On the Ground in Charlotte

24 05 2013

I landed in Charlotte with a headstorm of energy — and Democrats sure needed it. Dismal employment numbers and the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) had left the President’s re-election campaign in a vulnerable position. Luckily, the Republicans had nominated a Plutocrat in Mitt Romney who had failed to energize the Grand Old Party’s base. If anything got Republicans motivated to oust Obama, it was the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare verdict.

Evening hours in downtown Charlotte.

Evening hours in downtown Charlotte.

Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation was wildly unpopular in the Southern red states. It was bad enough they had to accept his Presidency, but a reform of America’s health care system was just too much for Joe Six Pack to take. And yet here, in the heart of the old Confederacy, the Democratic Party had gathered to nominate President Obama for a second term. There were already signs of trouble on the horizon. Romney was leading in the polls in both North Carolina and Florida — states Obama had carried four years ago.

David picked me up at the airport. He rented a car in Panama City and drove up for the convention. I was surprised he had been able to become a delegate. Although the Florida delegation was one of the larger ones, most of the state’s power and influence came from the southeast counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. For someone from the Panhandle to break through all the horse trading that goes on leading up to delegation selection was truly remarkable. I just didn’t think David was quite that shrewd.

He is loyal, however, without a shadow of a doubt and I was glad to see him again. I wondered if he recognized a difference in me.

Our hotel was in downtown Charlotte, which was surrounded and guarded by the largest police and security presence I had ever witnessed. All of the cops in their urban riot gear reminded me of some scenes from the latest Batman movie. The media were everywhere as well. MSNBC had its own “village” where the cable network broadcasted several of its daily shows live to masses of adoring fans. On my first night in town, David and I managed to get close enough to the cameras to show up on Chris Matthews’ Hardball show. During the commercial break, I gave Chris a thumbs up and he smiled. It was a clear connection.

The next morning we attended the Florida delegation breakfast, listening to politician after politician speak about the importance of the upcoming campaign. There we were joined by Pat and Brenda, two ladies from Bay County, who much like David had successfully navigated the delegate selection process into a ticket to Charlotte. Brenda was a fresh new face in Panama City politics, pumping much needed vigor into the women’s club. Pat, a yellow dog Democrat if there ever was one, had been a vital financial supporter of my run for state representative and was known for speaking her mind.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews meets his fans.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews meets his fans.

In a room full of power suits and enormous egos, I came down to breakfast in a pink Lacoste polo, khaki shorts and flip flops. I was comfortable in my own skin and never felt the least bit awkward or intimidated. This was a huge jump from four years ago when I was scared to leave my room, scared to go to Wal-Mart. Just plain scared.

I cannot begin to explain how much the Canyon had worked wonders on my human spirit. All those hikes had filled me with strength and confidence, only now I had the compassion and humility to go with it. The confidence I exuded before from influential journalism jobs was, admittedly, filled with arrogance and entitlement. While I am indeed grateful and fortunate to have lived a life of great privilege for thirtysomething years, the hard times of the last four years had reshaped my world view and given me much needed perspective. I knew the Romney crowd we would be battling. I knew them intimately and I knew their weaknesses. The ground game would be where this campaign would be won.

Forward!

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One response

24 05 2013
David

Very candid and heartfelt.

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