CHARLESTON, S.C.—Barack Obama conducted a completely staged-for-T.V. event here yesterday morning. In a large emptied deli (Jason’s, on the Savannah Highway, where the sign over one of the steam tables reads “Real = No MSG”), he met with four women. Fifty members of the press watched with varying degrees of inattention. It was just like The View—but even more boring! (Not the women’s fault; it was the staging.) This was the first of two “women’s roundtables” he would conduct. So with a good chunk of the black vote presumably locked up, Mr. Obama is now trying to eat away at Hillary Clinton’s female voters.
One of the women had brought her child along, but the youngster started making noise, so she was removed. (After the event, this woman would say she was “probably” voting for Mr. Obama: “I think so, yes.” Another of the women, the lone African-American one, when asked the same, said “Yes,” and hugged me. Twice.)
When Mr. Obama arrived at 9:18 a.m., in his gleaming text-free black and gold luxury bus, he stepped into the parking lot to see some fans. (Or, at least, people willing to yell his name.) An audible groan went up from the reporters already trapped inside the deli. Access to human interaction denied!
The press bus—two buses, actually—had arrived at 8:40 a.m. What’s the Barack Obama press bus like? According to one guy who signed on for a while, no fun at all. Like, uptight? “Times ten,” he said. (No pun intended.) The overachievers club apparently spend all their time overachieving.
Many of the reporters on that bus were still on from Thursday (although for The New York Times, a swap happened overnight, a well rested-seeming Jeff Zeleny subbing in for the rather worn-out but good-spirited Jodi Kantor of the night before.) The Chicago Tribune guy, and others, had been on for days, but was holding up well.
When the “roundtable” was over, “Travelers, we need to pack up, get back to the buses,” said a campaign worker named Jeff. The next event today was a good ways up the road. Were they super-excited to get back on the bus? “I’m super-excited it’s my last day,” said one reporter.
Another had a pink Post-It noted on her laptop. It was a list: “TO DO PERSONAL.” On it: “Send Dad $150.”
The day before, press bussers had poured grumpily into the Battery Creek High School gym in Beaufort, S.C. at 4:40 p.m. Mr. Obama was holding up much better than they were, and he gave what has become his voter turnout speech.
This speech also now has a big “oh-those-fatcats-in-Washington” section now, thanks to Hillary Clinton. Seriously, in talking about Hillary Clinton and her take on his position on the Yucca Mountain Repository of Totally Radioactive Stuff, Mr. Obama said: “I don’t know what to do. I’m thinking that’s how they talk in Washington. When they say yes, they mean no. When they say no, they mean maybe. Maybe that’s how they talk in Washington.”
This disingenuous aw-shucks down-home baloney has just GOT to stop. Does he think voters are stupid? It also, quite obviously, plays contrary to his arguments about being experienced in politics.
Ah, but the voters. Outside, an African-American woman, late 40’s, gorgeously dressed, said he sounded great. Yeah, he sounded great, I said.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” she said, “but there’s a lot of folks who don’t even want to put the right ingredients in the pudding.” OK?
And: “It’s not about him being black. It’s about unity.”
She has a daughter up in New York who’s leaning towards John Edwards.
There was also a white man, a former Kerry and Nader voter, who wanted to ask Mr. Obama a question about immigration policy. He’s a single-issue voter, interested in amnesty programs, because all his neighbors and coworkers (he works in steel) are illegal immigrants and he doesn’t want to see everyone he knows get disappeared by the Republican deportation plans. Voters are so strange; you would never know to look at them how they will vote.
And how were sales going, nice Obama button-selling lady? One word: “Awesome.”