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On the Road: Dueling Rallies, Ohio

On a day when the Dow plunged another 678 points, we had the opportunity to cross paths with another Barack Obama rally and another Sarah Palin rally here in west-central Ohio. Obama did five rallies here in two days: Dayton, Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Chillicothe, and Columbus, while Palin did events in Wilmington (home of the DHL plant closing that David Plouffe promised to highlight in local radio ads) and Cleveland. The events were a study in contrasts.

The Lectern - Obama Rally; Dayton, Ohio -

Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of approximately 8,500 in Dayton’s Fifth Third (Eighth?) Field for 40 minutes, and immediately launched into a detailed discussion of the economy. Titled the “American Jobs Tour Rally,” Obama managed the subtle stagecraft of physically morphing from a suit-coated politician to a coatless, sleeves-rolled-up problem-solver.

Tiny Obama - Obama Rally; Dayton, Ohio -

Palin’s rally featured the more impressive entrance, with giant video screens showing the crowd the slowly turning campaign bus as it approached the cavernous inside venue. Finally, the fog machines hit high blast, the huge blue curtain parted, and the bus drove right inside the hall. As “Eye of the Tiger” blasted over the loudspeakers, Palin bounded on stage to a full-throated roar. It was some pretty sweet stagecraft, (even if had Obama tried it he’d have been ridiculed for behaving as a “celebrity”).

Palin’s comments were entirely general. There were few specifics on the economy besides freezing spending and a pledge to balance the budget. Despite brief allusions to economic worries, there was no discussion of how America finds itself in this mess. To do so, she explicitly argued, was to dwell on the past rather than look to the future.

She spoke for longer than her brief Carson City rally we saw September 13 — just under 30 minutes — and her crowd was larger and louder here. She spent about 10% of the time talking about Bill Ayers. “Ambition explains launching your political career in the living room of an unrepentant terrorist,” Palin said, punctuated by four or five loud shouts of “Terrorist!’ from the crowd.

Obama’s rally featured the chant, “Obama! Obama!” Palin’s crowd chanted “Nobama!” twice. With brio. It struck me that the big chant in Carson City was “Drill Baby Drill!” but here when that chant came up it was soft, half-hearted, and uncoordinated. “Nobama!” had the juice. Not even “Sarah!” could trump “Nobama!”

Props - Palin Rally; Wilmington, Ohio -

The language that the two candidates used on yet another rough economic day showed contrast. For Obama’s part, threaded through an extensive discussion of economic policy were repeated phrases: “I have confidence,” “I believe in you,” “we can do this,” “we’re in this together,” and “together, we cannot fail.” On the other hand, Palin’s comments were directed at Obama — she was in full hockey agitator mode — “terrorist,” “judgment,” “ambition.” As for DHL shutting down 8,000 jobs in Wilmington, “we’re gonna do something about it.” Obama is afraid of mavericks. And Obama is a very dangerous guy who can’t be trusted. Big disconnect from the day’s events. While most of the 10,500 or so people cheered loudly, I noticed a number of people who stood with arms folded as the attacks unrolled.

Palin Power - Palin Rally; Wilmington, Ohio -

The coup de grace was her closing statement, a direct assertion that Obama was a coward.

So you know, Ohio, from now until Election Day, you’re gonna hear our opponents go on and on about how they’ll, quote, fight for you. But since my running mate won’t say this on his own behalf I will say it for him. And that is, in this campaign there is only one man who has every really fought for you. The only man who has ever really fought for you and the only man with courage.

Palin 2012 - Palin Rally; Wilmington, Ohio -

Contrast with Obama’s closing message:

Together, we cannot fail. Not now. Not when we have a crisis to solve and an economy to save. Not when there are so many Americans without jobs and without homes. Not when there are families who can’t afford to see a doctor, or send their child to college, or pay their bills at the end of the month. Not when there is a generation that is counting on us to give them the same opportunities and the same chances that we had for ourselves.

We can do this. Americans have done this before. Some of us had grandparents or parents who said maybe I can’t go to college but my child can; maybe I can’t have my own business but my child can. I may have to rent, but maybe my children will have a home they can call their own. I may not have a lot of money but maybe my child will run for Senate. I might live in a small village but maybe someday my son can be president of the United States of America.

Now it falls to us. Together, we cannot fail.

Boy - Obama Rally; Dayton, Ohio -

Obama spent almost his whole speech talking about the economy. Palin showed she was capable of talking specifics, but only when breaking down the exact whens and wheres of Obama meeting Ayers, and who said what when, on what interview. Very, very detailed. It was jarring — the absence of detailed economic discussion. Most people think we’re heading for another depression. I think it works well on people already sold on voting Republican but not as well on undecided voters or independents.

There was good news. We’d heard reports that the media was becoming the target of angry crowds at McCain-Palin events, and while that might or might not be true for others, we can’t report anything but helpfulness by the McCain-Palin staff nor can we report feeling uncomfortable in the crowd. Most everyone was friendly and happy to let Brett take their pictures, and we had a privileged political day.

Secret Service - Obama Rally; Dayton, Ohio -

[UPDATE] So, Brett’s site suffered a DDOS attack, and is now offline, with BlueHost refusing to ever host Brett again. We’re re-configuring, so bear with us.