I don’t want to make too much about size. But Obama’s room at this Pennsylvania AFL-CIO conference is a third larger than Clinton’s, though this room is much airier – Clinton’s was packed cheek-to-jowl.
Obama did his best to get the crowd “Fired Up and Ready to Go.” He even told that Greenwood, South Carolina story at the end of the speech, a story he saves for special occasions these days. If it’s possible to convince people to vote for you by the power of one speech, Obama tried his best. He avoided mentioning Hillary by name, although at the top of his speech he did joke about his bowling prowess: “I went bowling and my poll numbers dropped a little bit after I went bowling which is why I’m tearing up the bowling alley in the White House and putting in a basketball court,” he joked. “No, maybe I should leave it in and get practice.”
He also referenced Clinton’s Rocky Balboa remarks, taking a swipe at the New York senator: “We all love Rocky and the last time I checked I was the underdog in this state,” Obama said. “But we’ve got to remember that Rocky was a movie. And so is the idea that someone can fight for working people and at the same time, embrace the broken system Washington, where corporate lobbyists use their clout to shape laws to their liking.”
But Obama saved the bulk of his criticisms for John McCain. “Like George Bush, Senator McCain is committed to more tax cuts for the rich, and more trade agreements that fail to protect American workers,” Obama said. “His response to the housing crisis amounts to basically standing on the sidelines and watching millions of Americans face foreclosure. And some of his top advisors were lobbyists for the special interest when they went to work for his campaign, so it’s not hard to guess who they’ll be working for if they get into the White House.”
Despite the teleprompter, he went off remarks a bunch of times, most notably on the infamous 3am commercials. “When you ask yourselves who you want answering that 3am phone call, you should ask yourselves who’s going to have the good intelligence?” Obama said. “Who is going to weigh the costs and the benefits? Who’s going to have the strategic vision to understand that we shouldn’t be distracted from going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the ones who caused 3,000 Americans to die? That’s the person you want answering that phone call. You want somebody debating John McCain who said no to the war in Iraq, who said no to a 100-year occupation of Iraq, who’ll say no to a third Bush term.”
The room did get energized by the end of his speech, rising to their feet to chant “Fired up! Ready to go!” Enthusiastic UFCW and SEIU members –unions that have endorsed Obama – helped get people moving. The national chapters of both unions seceded from the AFL-CIO but in Pennsylvania these two unions remain part of the Pennsylvanian AFL-CIO. I wanted to grab some crowd reaction, but had to run to the next Obama event, but comparatively both Clinton and Obama were both well received. As one delegate said to me: “It’s going to be a tough choice. A very tough choice. She’s got my head, but he’s got my heart.”