WEST ORANGE – The leather-clad bikers roared into the parking lot, revving overtime – and they kept coming, motley in motion, mufflers drowning out the after effects of rhetoric, the noise near to deafening – as a senatorial figure with a shock of white hair practically broke from his handlers and strode down among them.
He looked so senatorial, in fact, that – was it actually…
Yes, it was definitely 84-year old U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) emerging from the opening of the Obama campaign’s West Orange headquarters and personally welcoming a newly formed Essex County club, Bikers for Obama, which this morning numbered about 200 strong.
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark) joined the senator, jumping aboard a Harley as one of the bikers outfitted Lautenberg with a leather vest.
The last engine died. The last kick stand was kicked into place. The bikes and men and women and cargo gathered round.
“Thanks everybody for supporting Obama because you’re supporting your country,” said Lautenberg, standing beside Payne in the middle of the circle of Obama supporters.
“Just look at these two guys,” he said, conjuring the presidential candidates. “One wants to fight and the other one wants to think. One wants to be angry and nasty and the other wants to make the country a better place. On one side we see name-calling, character assassination, and nothing that speaks to helping America through this crisis, and on the other side, we see a positive image of what America can and should be – and that’s Obama.
“What Obama brings is dignity – through his elegance, through his remarks, through his intelligence,” the senator added. “That’s what we want in this country. And it’s a transformational moment. …And I want to say something. I want to thank all of you.”
As Payne stood tall in his own saddle, Lautenberg said with a devilish grin, “This is the nicest gift I’ve ever gotten,” and acted like he was about to suddenly swing up a leg and make off with another one of the bikes.
On a statewide day of action, Lautenberg – who’s running for re-election against former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer – and Payne joined U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), other elected officials, Obama senior policy advisor Mark Alexander, and volunteer canvassers here this morning at the opener in a West Orange strip mall.
“Volunteers are going out to knock on doors,” said Essex County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen. “They’ll do some voter registration, but mostly they’ll just let people know that Obama is running with their support. By the last weekend of this month they will have knocked on 50,000 doors. It’s young people for the most part, who enlisted and were recruited as a result of the candidate. They’re all doing a very good job.”
The inaugural speeches over, Pascrell was the first elected out the door to go “box with FOX” on the Neil Cavuto Show, and that’s when the bikers landed on the scene.