The Comeback Kid

3 06 2013

The convention roared to life on a Friday night with the arrival of former President Bill Clinton. “Bubba” — as he is affectionately known — was brought in to shepherd the Obama/Biden campaign to victory in a way no other politician could. Clinton could sell the President’s plans because he could communicate in ways Obama could not. Blue collar workers, independents and conservative Democrats were willing to listen to Clinton even if he is basically sharing the same message as Obama. Those voters remembered the 1990s and while Bubba had his problems keeping sexual desires in check, the economy under the Clinton Administration was booming.

In Charlotte, Clinton did what he needed to do — rev up the base with cold hard facts in the process calling out Republican wonder boy and Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan for his underhandedly “brass” tactics. It was vintage Clinton, the crowd loving every minute and it came at just the right time. Leading up to Clinton’s speech there were manufactured controversies afloat from the proper place of God in the party platform to should the convention’s final night be staged at nearby Bank of America Stadium. The irony of Obama delivering his convention speech inside a stadium named for a bank that received the biggest government bailout seemed lost on many tone deaf DC insiders.

Meanwhile, David continued to get me into high level events and functions as we rubbed elbows with senators, congressmen, media elites and high profile candidates. Meeting Barney Frank was especially fun. Frank, the openly gay congressman from Massachusetts, is a longtime liberal warrior and widely respected for his knowledge of financial issues. At a luncheon headlined by First Lady Michelle Obama, I nudged my way to the front of the room and got our picture taken with Barney. We all three were smiling from ear to ear.

Michelle baring arms

Michelle baring arms

Like Clinton, the First Lady was a real crowd pleaser who attracted attention with her wardrobe decision to “bare arms.” Michelle Obama had made fitness and healthy eating a major part of her agenda as First Lady, giving overweight Southerners yet another reason to loathe her husband. I had met Mrs. Obama before, during the summer of 2010 as my campaign for the state house was just beginning and so too was the fallout from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Michelle Obama came to Panama City Beach to address concerns of the spill, but before she could step foot on our sugary white sand beaches, she was greeted with an ignorant redneck response that is so common in the region. Postings across social media, on internet sites and echoed through talk radio did not exactly roll out the red carpet for Michelle and ultimately forced her appearance to take place in front of a limited, small audience of community leaders and local officials. As the Democratic nominee for state rep, I made the cut and was able to get a spot along the rope line just yards from the Gulf where I thanked the First Lady for coming. I then told her, I was running for state rep, to which she replied, “Oh you must really be hurting.” To this day, that response still puzzles me. I was hurting that summer. A lot of folks were. Fast forward to the end of the summer of 2012 and the hurt remained. A nation was bitterly divided.

As the convention’s final day loomed, the DNC braintrust decided to move proceedings from the originally scheduled Bank of America Stadium indoors to Time Warner Arena. They said it was due to inclement weather, but it was also a face saving move for the President. A half empty football stadium would have been a horrible image to overcome this late in the campaign. There was also a noticeable energy gap to deal with particularly among young people who were vital to the 2008 campaign of “Yes We Can.” Bank of America had gotten their bailout, but not these kids.

What happened next I’ll never forget. David gave up his seat for me. It was a incredible act of kindness, generosity and sacrifice. The nominating process was complete and all that remained was the pageantry. I would attend the convention on his delegate pass, sit in his seat, listen to the President’s speech and absorb all the evening had to offer. For a lifelong political nerd this was the ultimate show. And the curtain was rising on a comeback.

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