|What an amazing rally tonight for Tom Perriello in Charlottesville. I can't even begin to describe the level of excitement that President Barack Obama's visit generated.
The President hearkened back to the feeling we all had in 2008, which seems so long ago now -- that feeling of all things being possible. "That spirit can't fade," the President said, "and it's still in each of you."
The crowd was huge for Charlottesville. The line to get into the Pavilion, where the rally was held, stretched the entire length of Charlottesville's downtown mall, perhaps 10 city blocks, and then doubled back at least an additional four blocks. The Pavilion was packed with people - 7-8 thousand, I believe, was the estimate. And I hear many more were unable to get in.
I spoke to several people in the Pavilion who had places up front, and so were among the first people in. They had been waiting on line since early this morning. They we still excited to see the President.
The place was electric, and the crown enthusiastic. Plenty of cheering every time UVA was mentioned, suggesting that we may yet see a large student turnout.
Robert Hurt and a few Conservative blogs have suggested that Obama coming to Charlottesville will backfire on Tom, because it will reinforce the connection between Tom and the President in the minds of Republicans and opponents.
Statements like this make me want to actually become a Conservative and join the Republican Party, because those guys are smoking some great weed over there.
Look, anyone who is outraged by Obama and wants to vote against Perriello because he thinks Tom is close to the President has already decided how they will vote. And throughout this cycle, all we have been hearing about is the enthusiasm gap - that these folks who oppose the president and the Democrats are intense and almost certain voters.
So, explain to me who the current undecided voters are for whom this visit will make them irate enough to vote against Tom? I'm sure they don't have television sets, because if they did they probably would have seen five dozen commercials linking Tom and the President, so seeing them together on stage would not be new information.
On the other hand, Obama's visit clearly got C'ville Democrats pumped to vote. As today's SUSA poll showed, the enthusiasm gap is narrowing in the district, and the race is clearly trending Tom's way. The question is whether enough Democrats will show up at the polls to put Tom over the top.
In fact, this is something over which Hurt has no control. He already has all the votes of all the people who are inclined to vote against Tom. Hurt knows that any new voter convinced to vote from this point out is coming to vote for Perriello. This, more than anything else, accounts for Hurt's state of panic and acts of desperation in seeking to counter the President's visit.
Did I mention desperation?
Hilariously, Hurt issued a press release this afternoon inviting Tom and the President "to join him in a small business roundtable discussion in Martinsville, Virginia tomorrow."
Uh, yeah, right....
I am sure Hurt thinks he is making some sort of clever point with this sort of disrespectful treatment of the President of the United States, but he is not. What this immature response really shows is that Hurt is acting like he is running for junior-high class president, not the U.S. Congress. (One almost expects Hurt to say, "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" to the President).
As he has done throughout this race, Hurt has insulted both voters and the U.S. Congress itself with a timeworn political stunt like this.
But then, why should a man who thinks he doesn't even have to read health care reform legislation, but can still oppose it, behave any differently. It is yet another sign that Hurt takes neither the office of U.S. Congressman nor the problems of the people in the Fifth District too seriously.
Meanwhile, back at the Pavilion, President Obama is asking the crowd not to give up on change and on a better future, not to be discouraged from voting by an obstructionist and small-minded Republican Party that tries to convince us that Change is not possible. President Obama is talking about shared sacrifice, about an America that competes and beats other countries in areas of education and scientific discoveries but about what America is really about.
He also talks about an America in which we all look out for one another, and help our neighbors when they hit a rough patch. "I am my brother's keeper," the President said. "I am my sister's keeper."
The President's has the unusual effect of both firing people up to vote and help Tom get elected, and at the same time causing people to become more introspective about how each of them has faced the adversity of the past several years.
As Obama leaves the stage for a round of shaking hands, I look around me and see beaming faces in every direction.
Beaming faces that come Tuesday will be voting for Tom Perriello.
Obama and crowd
Crowd shot inside the Pavilion