Front Row Seat for Most Exciting Democratic Presidential Primary Battle in NC History

Local journalists say it’s like a famous international circus coming to your town. I was lucky to have a front row seat.

I Met Hillary Clinton in Wake Forest, NC. She Had Whirlwind Day of Six Events in Two States, Three Days Before NC and Indiana Primaries

Now I can say I have seen both Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in North Carolina, and shook the hands of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In the bucolic small town of Wake Forest, near Raleigh, Hillary talked with a sense of authority about economic and health care issues, just three days before the North Carolina primary.

She started off the day with a give-and-take for moms at Cary High School, sponsored by, offering revealing anecdotes on what it was like raising Chelsea. After Wake Forest, she headed southwest to Gastonia and Mooresville, to the NC Auto Racing Hall of Fame. By dinnertime, she was in West Lafayette, IN and attended an after-dinner rally at White River State Park in Indianapolis. Whatever you think of her, you can’t doubt her stamina.

With so many events in NC small towns, far more than Obama, Hillary must think she can win the state or hold Obama to a tiny lead.

(Coverage by WRAL, CBS News, N&O, MSNBC, Voice of America, NBC17, ABC13, and by my favorite, the blog, “travisandstephanie,” a couple that recently relocated to the Triangle from Louisiana.)

She was a little hoarse and looked beyond tired, like she was running on adrenalin. My wife noticed not a wrinkle on her face, but heavy eyeliner.

She called for a summer gas tax holiday for three months, claiming it would save the average consumer $70. Truckers and other businesses that depend on gasoline and road travel would save billions, she said.  But this seemed gimmicky and her assertions dubious — she can’t prove that prices at the pump will actually decline. And she really didn’t offer a longer term solution to the “oil shock” the economy is currently experiencing. (She does frequently talk about decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and giving automakers incentives to produce more fuel-efficient cars.)

What I found more compelling was her discussion of health care. She emphasized the cost-savings of preventive medicine in her plan. It makes no sense for health insurance companies to deny coverage for diabetics to have their feet checked once a month or so, but then pay tens of thousands of dollars for a foot to be amputated because it wasn’t adequately monitored. She made the case for a mandatory health care plan — if everyone isn’t required to pay something into the system, costs of the uninsured would continue to  shift to the insured and predicting or controlling overall costs would be difficult if not impossible.

I was standing beside a woman, probably in her thirties, who said she had never voted before. “I don’t even know HOW to vote,” she said. But this year, “I’m voting, and I’m voting for Hillary!” Nearby was a pre-teen girl who shared a personal story with Senator Clinton (I couldn’t hear what they said), and then Clinton wrote a note in the girl’s diary or guest book. Even if Hillary doesn’t win the presidency, she sends a good message to girls and young women about what they can achieve in their own lives.


I found this photo from the event on, and these videoclips of the appearance on

Obama, in Raleigh, Shows He’s No Elitist Egghead

In my continuing efforts to meet or at least hear out the presidential candidates and their spouses and to evaluate the campaigns first hand before making my up my mind, I attended a Barack Obama town hall in Raleigh. Previously on this blog, I offered my impressions of rallies with Bill Clinton andMichelle Obama and compiled links to accounts from other “citizen journalists” who’ve posted their impressions, pictures and videos to the web.

I used my press pass, while many others waited in line for hours. But I don’t feel guilty, because my objectives were indeed professional — to convey to a much greater degree than what one finds in the typical mainstream media report, with all its constraints of time, space, and “objectivity,” what the people attending such an event were thinking, and to record my honest impressions.

North Carolinians explain why they stand in line for hours to get tickets to see Barack Obama in Raleigh (Citizen Journalism video by Ginny Skalski). At least one woman had waited for tickets from 1:45 am until they were distributed at 9:30 am:

My video of Barack Obama shaking hands with voters after a town hall at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

(For some reason, the sound isn’t uploading. I’ll keep trying.) Woman beside me reaches out to Obama and says, awestruck, “I appreciate you. I don’t know if anyone has told you that today, but I appreciate you.” Woman next to her shakes hand with Obama and says afterwards, awestruck and laughing, “I’m not going to be able to use this hand anymore, I’m not going to be able to wash it.”

I”m sure this kind of adoration is off-putting to Obama skeptics, but to me the enthusiasm and energy he generates is absolutely necessary for a successful political campaign.

The sound IS working in the clip below — a clip from Obama’s talk.

“Last night you were really pummelled in that (PA) debate,” a member of the audience told Obama, asking him what’s his strategy to deflect such attacks in the future:

Does Obama seem a little rattled in this clip? “BitterAntipathy” posted this clipon YouTube and thinks so:

George Will asserts that Barack Obama is an arrogant elitist who does not understand conservatives or rural America, comparing him to Adlai Stevenson, an egghead who lost in landslides to Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1952. When told that he had the support of “all thinking people,” Stevenson replied, “But that’s not enough. I need a majority.” Indeed, my first impression of Obama when he held a rally in Durham last November — a couple of months before Obama-mania took hold in Iowa and when it looked like Hillary Clinton had the Democratic nomination locked up — was that his style was more that of Illinois’ Stevenson than of Illinois’ Jesse Jackson.

“What struck me was the CEREBRAL appeal of Obama’s speech, more of an appeal to the mind than the heart,” I wrote back then. “His speech lacked what one expects from a black politician speaking to a predominantly black crowd — a lot of rousing rhetoric and interaction with the audience, shouts of “you’re so right!” Instead of building up the audience to a crescendo, highly energized and ready to volunteer for his campaign, I thought Obama ended on a relatively intellectual, restrained, some might say, FLAT note. To the older people in the audience, I imagine Obama came across as an EGGHEAD, a man more comfortable in the tradition of Adlai Stevenson of Illinois than Jesse Jackson of Illinois.

What a difference six months has made. Obama on the stump in Raleigh seemed precisely in tune with the yearnings of his audience of 2000 people, combining both appeals to the heart and the head. Answering voters’ questions, he by no means talked down to them in the detached, intellectual way that Stevenson might have. He addressed the wishful thinking of his opponents head on, asserting that it’s quite understandable that people in rural areas are bitter and angry over job losses and companies shifting jobs overseas. Anger helps fuel energy, and hope, he said, and without it change will not occur. He urged citizens to direct their anger into community organizing and political activism. “Stand with me, organize with me, and we will change this country,” he declared.

It seems to me that’s the fundamental difference between Obama and Hillary Clinton. She speaks of “I,” he speaks of “we.” She’s from the television era of voters as passive observers of politics. Obama is from the new Internet era of voters as active participants in politics. I could be wrong, and I’ll wait to see her in person before I come to a conclusion, but my hunch is that she “doesn’t get it,” doesn’t understand the possibilities and power of this new era of networked communication.

Decide for yourself if, as Will charges, Obama sounds like an Adlai Stevenson elitist. Here’s Stevenson:

Other Stevenson video clips on YouTube.

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