The President at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
Yep, it was quite an experience to get close to see the President.
For one thing, many of us had waited hours in line to see him, only to find that when the “doors” were finally opened for people to go through the detectors and be searched by the cops, there was a stampede from those who had not been in line and were farther back in the line. They ran ahead of us. Anyone could have been trampled. Children and toddlers were there as well. Those in charge definitely didn’t organize this right; there could have been serious injuries.
I ran ahead myself, just so that I could get my friends where I was. I waved and waved, but I could not find them or see them until much later.
Then my body betrayed me. The crush of people, the long wait in the sun, all combined with dehydration made me dizzy and sick. I swear, I felt faint, saw the grass below me, and wanted to throw up. I had to be helped to a nearby medical station where they checked my vitals and did give me water and I started to feel better. But I had lost my place where I could see Obama.
Result: I saw a side sliver of Obama all at once. And his trousers, and part of his shirt. When he did do his round of shaking hands, a sea of cell phones and digital cameras shot up, keeping me and others from craning our necks and seeing him. And that was all.
There was upwards of 17,000-26,000 souls there at the Library Mall. I wasn’t the only one wearing pins and/or shirts from the last election. This was definitely a gathering of the die-hard true believers. There were shouts and calls of “We love you, Obama,” sprinkled throughout his speech. But I think that love is not enough.
Several of us also saw David Axelrod, one of the President’s closest advisers, talking into his cell phone. He saw that he had been spotted, and moved back into the library.
It was no better than being at a rock concert, but I saw him. I saw his head and I thought to myself, he’s getting grayer. And I heard his message. I hope Obama gets the same kind of response elsewhere that he received last evening. One thing I learned last night: he still has the touch to move people. He’s got to get out there and tell people what he has done for them, that he continues to do for them, and that the work is hardly finished, especially, as it has been reported, he has become disillusioned with his economic troika’s advice. It may not be too late to save the midterm elections from being a total G.O.P. avalanche.
Incumbent and embattled Senator Russ Feingold did appear at this rally, along with Representative Tammy Baldwin and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett who is running for governor. Speculation was that Feingold would not appear with the President because he is six points behind his Republican contender, and that Feingold wanted to distance himself from Obama for fear of being labeled with the President’s unpopular programs.
Feingold skipped the President’s last visit to Wisconsin, a Labor Day rally in Milwaukee, in order to attend an event in Janesville. In Madison, he blasted Republicans who have said the Senator is trying to distance himself from an unpopular president as he fights for re-election, calling that “a crock.”
Feingold is running for re-election against Republican Ron Johnson. He told those attending the UW-Madison rally that it will be a tough battle and he expects to be outspent by his opponent. He blamed that partially on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which opened the door to corporate spending on campaign advertising.
However, Feingold says his campaign will not be “out-organized” and his Senate seat can’t be bought, “it must be earned.”
He also said that the President is his friend, and Obama said that on certain issues they agree to disagree.
Ron Johnson had ads running in July; Feingold finally put together one or two ads, after Johnson had done those hit spots. Feingold’s going to have to hit back and hard at what Johnson’s said in those ads. Just saying that he’s a regular guy isn’t working.