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September 9, 2012 at 7:15 AM
UW Election Eye spent five days on the ground covering Democrats at their national gathering. Here are some reflections and photographs.
CHARLOTTE — The Democratic National Convention was supposed to end in President Barack Obama’s address to a live audience of 70,000 at Bank of America Stadium. It did not.
A last minute change shifted the venue from the enormous football field to the much smaller Time Warner Cable Arena, shorting some 65,000 people of a chance to see the President. The DNC cited a stormy weather forecast and consequent safety concerns as the reasoning for the change. It did indeed rain in the afternoon, and quite heavily at that, but Obama’s speech wouldn’t have started until late evening. Critics claimed the DNCC abandoned the stadium for fear of bad TV — inclement weather would have kept people home and left unsavory empty seats in view of the cameras. Either way, the thousands who’d earned their community viewing credentials by volunteering their time at the DNC weren’t pleased. The President called the change disappointing and promised to return to Charlotte and speak to the left out before November 6th.
Despite the complications, nothing dampened enthusiasm inside the Arena on Thursday night. Every single seat, floor to nosebleeds, was filled and the Fire Marshall shut the venue doors to keep out more. Celebrity speakers like Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and Foo Fighters entertained, but surprise guests like former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords packed the real punch. Her recital of the Pledge of Allegiance brought the house to an intense emotional release. The photos below recount some scenes from the DNC’s political theater.
We were located to the right and above the stage. The sides of the venue’s second tier were filled with private, catered suites for big donors, proving that even if money shouldn’t buy an election, it can certainly get you prime seating for a convention. In between the private rooms and encircling the back of the huge podium, were desks and chairs for news outlets. Like the rest of the Arena, the press section was standing room only. The photo above captures our line of sight — press room screens play a CNN live broadcast, showing an audience member waving a “Ready for Joe” sign, while the real Vice President addresses the nation in the background.
A sea of enthused delegates held eye-catching signs to create good television, and it was not by chance. Orange-vested volunteers handed out prepared signage to delegates during speech breaks. The placards’ content corresponded with the desired message tied to a particular speaker. Keynote speaker Julian Castro’s address, on Tuesday evening, was accompanied with blue “Forward” and red “Not Back” posters. First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech was greeted with skinny, vertical “We Love Michelle” placards. For the President’s nomination acceptance finale, the audience raised hundreds of “Thank You” signs (above).
The Washington delegation had prime seating throughout the convention, to the immediate left of the stage.
The families and close friends of Thursday’s big speakers were seated immediately in front of the podium, granting easy backstage access and prime television shots. In the above photo the Vice President tells Dr. Jill Biden (in a blue dress) she’s the love of his life while First Lady Michelle Obama (in the purple patterned dress) looks over and smiles. The seating order was later rearranged for the President’s speech to feature his daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, in the first row.
Michelle Obama introduced her husband for his speech, and when he came on the two shared a hug and kiss to the crowd’s applause.
The firing of confetti cannons marked the end of the President’s speech and the DNC. While the colorful paper fell, the First Family embraced and posed for pictures on stage.
The occasion called forward fashion from some. Political fashionista and Mississippi delegate Kelly Jacobs pulled out her best gown for the final night of the DNC. The ensemble (left) was a floor length dress crafted from the iconic Obama Hope poster. The letters were bejeweled and the outfit was completed by red, white and blue heels. Members of the Washington delegation showed some sartorial creativity, too. This delegate (right) wore a Styrofoam rendition of the Evergreen State and its claims to fame. Included on the 3D map were a miniature apple, coffee cup, plane, seafood, Mount Rainier and more. The straw hat that served as the base was decorated with campaign buttons, including a “Jay Inslee for Governor” pin.
Outside the Time Warner Cable Arena, major networks set up publicly accessible stages and broadcast with a live audience background. MSNBC placed its studio in the center of a mall, two blocks from the Arena. Access was granted to all, but required a security bag check. In this photo, Chris Matthews and guests participated in an episode of Hardball, right after the DNC let out. FOX News Channel set up its stage outside Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Chris Matthews invited actresses Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera (far right) on the show to discuss the President’s comments on immigration reform and the Dream Act. During commercial breaks, Matthews ventured into the audience and interviewed colorful constituents. After completing the filming, the host and his guests posed for the boisterous crowd.
It was three days of political theater. It’s impact is not yet clear, though the first waves of polls suggest a positive bounce in public opinion for the President. Eight weeks to Election Day.
All photos by Ilona Idlis.
April 16, 2012 at 7:49 AM
With reporting by Alicia Halberg and Stephanie Kim
Democrats held their legislative caucuses on Sunday to help decide the party’s platform and select the presidential nominee. With Obama guaranteed the nomination, many simply didn’t see any point in attending.
Only 24 people showed up for the meeting of Washington’s 36th legislative district caucuses at Whittier Elementary in Ballard, where 15 precincts met to caucus.
Alice Woldt, former chairwoman of the King County Democratic Party and former chair of the 36th district Democrats, convened the caucuses at Whittier. She said the district had tried to reach out to potential caucus-goers using local media, calling those who came out in 2008, robocalls in the area, and having caucus officers talk to their neighbors.
“With all of the media attention on the other party, we need to build up energy and enthusiasm, otherwise people won’t think that we’ve got anything going on,” Woldt said. (more…)
April 4, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Mitt Romney faces battle on two fronts — Barack Obama launches general election, yet Rick Santorum fights on
Signs, signs everywhere a sign.
On Tuesday the signs all suggested that the Republican presidential primary was over, done, finito, and that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were ready to rumble. Someone needs to tell Rick Santorum, though, because he was defiant in defeat.
March 27, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Note: this is the second of two related posts on the state of the 2012 Republican presidential contest. Part 1 was posted yesterday morning.
TACOMA — The Republican presidential nomination is not over yet, Rick Santorum says. Part of his campaign’s argument is that delegates in caucus states will be allocated to him in greater numbers than the popular votes were on caucus day.
The Pierce County Republican Party convention on Saturday is one place to test Santorum’s view.
The results suggest Santorum might be right.
On March 3, Mitt Romney handily won Washington state’s presidential straw poll at the GOP caucuses, garnering 38% of the statewide caucus vote to 25% for Ron Paul and 24% for Santorum. In Pierce County specifically, Romney won 38% of the vote, Santorum won 26% and Paul received 23%.
That was the popular straw vote on caucus day. In Washington, as in many other caucus states, the official process of appropriating delegates to candidates begins at the precinct caucuses — but is entirely separate from the straw vote — and then moves to the county, and finally to the state level.
March 26, 2012 at 5:45 AM
Note: this is the first of two related posts on the state of the 2012 Republican presidential contest. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow morning.
The leaders of the Republican Party and the national news media have decided that Mitt Romney is going to be the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012.
For example, national news outlets barely waved at Rick Santorum’s big win on Saturday in the Louisiana primary. The New York Times story included this as the second sentence: “The win gave Mr. Santorum a much-needed psychological boost but it will be unlikely to change the dynamics of the race.” And Politico led its coverage with this: “Rick Santorum picked up another win on Saturday in Louisiana, but the victory won’t significantly change the delegate advantage held by Mitt Romney in the GOP nominating contest.”
On Sunday morning, Republican establishment types left no doubt. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN, “I think the primary is over. Romney will be the nominee. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet. But she’s warming up.” And former Mississippi governor and GOP insider Haley Barbour said on NBC, “Unless Romney steps on a land mine, it looks like he will be the nominee.”
Romney is certainly the most likely candidate to be the nominee, but I think it’s too early to make the call.
Many news outlets and the GOP leadership are ready to move on to the general election, but the party’s base of evangelical Protestants is not ready to do so. Romney has yet to win a state where the Republican electorate is more than 50% evangelical.
There are at least three serious land mines still out there for Romney.
March 7, 2012 at 2:00 PM
Many voters we’ve met on the campaign trail say they support Mitt Romney because he seems to be the most electable. And when you look at the Republican Party presidential nomination delegate count, the math is in his favor. Romney aides point out that with Super Tuesday behind them, Romney needs to win 48% of the remaining delegates to secure the nomination as compared to 65% for Santorum and 70% for Gingrich.
But when you have to point to a state-by-state breakdown of delegates and default to technicalities to show why you are most electable, something is missing.
The New York Times called it Mitt’s “missing magic,” which has lead to what they call an “excitement deficit.” Others have called this the enthusiasm gap. It basically means that Romney is liked by people who think he is competent and effective and believe his skills as a businessman will aid him in office, but it boils down to one thing: they don’t love Romney.
I have met very few passionate, definitive supporters of Romney. I have heard voters in our state, at a rally in Pasco last week, say that Rick Santorum is “the only Republican candidate,” and that he is “the hero that will fight for our families.” At a Seattle caucus, a Ron Paul supporter went so far as to say he would lay down his life for Paul and his cause. Voters believe in these candidates.
But for Romney, there doesn’t seem to be the same inspiration or spark driving voters to believe in him. Sure, they will vote for him, but there’s a reason why Romney’s campaign slogan is “Believe in America,” and not “Believe in Romney.” Conservatives want and do believe in America, and many on the campaign trail have said that they believe Barack Obama is damaging the America they love. They think that any of the Republican candidates would be better than Obama. So yes, they believe in America and in their respective visions of a future America with a Republican in office, and if that means settling for Romney then so be it.
And whatever one’s feelings toward Sarah Palin, she put it straight yesterday in an interview after she cast a caucus vote in Alaska for Newt Gingrich, “There will be that zip-a-dee-doo-dah after the nominee is chosen. I guarantee there will be that enthusiasm. But to be brutally honest, with all due respect to governor Romney, who is obviously the frontrunner… he’s not garnering a lot of that enthusiasm right now.”
Romney appears to have the math to win the nomination and Republicans will most likely rise to the occasion to support and defend their nominee. In the end, like their feelings toward Romney, that may be “good enough.”
March 5, 2012 at 6:30 AM
SANDPOINT — Super Tuesday is upon us. With seven primaries, three caucuses, and 419 delegates at stake, the news media are rich with speculation. For the first time ever, the state of Idaho’s Republican Party gets to be part of the buzz.
Until this year, Idaho’s GOP determined its presidential and local nominee preferences with a primary in late May. At the presidential level, the 32 delegates chosen then attended the GOP National Convention with little allegiance to the candidates. Three quarters of the delegates were “soft pledged” (meaning they could change their minds) and the remaining 8 were simply “unpledged” — in other words, free agents.
The late season primary and the changeable delegates meant that Republican candidates rarely visited and few paid attention to the Gem State. Finally, the GOP got tired of being ignored and resolved to make its sizable number of delegates — more than Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada — count in 2012.
So last October, they instituted a caucus system and moved the date way, way up to Super Tuesday – not an uncommon move for states who want more of an early say in the nomination process. So, on Tuesday, 44 counties will open their doors to first-time caucus goers at 7 p.m. In accordance with Idaho’s new voter identification law, only registered Republicans with valid ID can participate.
March 4, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Last Thursday I spoke to Washington State Republican Party Chairman, Kirby Wilbur, and he was confident that the turnout for the Washington caucus could be “50,000 and north of that.”
Wilbur should be feeling pleased with his predictive powers.
A press release sent to me this morning from Josh Amato, Washington State Republican Party Director of Communications, put the final total at 50,764.
The press release quoted Wilbur as saying, “Not only were these attendees excited to have a voice in the Republican nomination process, but they were sending a clear message that President
Obama’s lack of economic recovery and disregard of the impact that his extremely high gas prices has on the average Washington working family, or non-working family because of his failed economic policies, will not be tolerated.”
Mitt Romney ended the night with just over 37% of the vote, providing him a double digit win in Washington State and his fifth primary victory in a row. The New York Times reported this morning that the Romney campaign is now focused squarely on the math that leads them to the prized 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination.
With Super Tuesday around the corner, there will be a flurry of delegates to be won next week.
March 3, 2012 at 12:54 PM
KINGSTON — Kingston High School had a nearly full parking lot when we arrived at 9:45 this morning. The setting was stunning: a new state of the art high school set amidst cedar trees, with the boys baseball team warming up on the field.
UW Election Eye reporter Lucas Anderson and I followed signs from the parking lot to the school cafeteria, where over 120 people were seated at long tables, being welcomed by Shirley J. Brown, Precinct Committee Officer for Port Gamble 450. When we approached the volunteers and introduced ourselves, we were told that we were not to interview attendees, film them, or take any photographs.
Suddenly, the enormous bag of camera equipment Lucas was carrying felt like a ball and chain.
But the UW Election Eye is all about entrepreneurial journalism, so we shifted gears, took a seat, and looked forward to watching the proceedings.
Brown runs a tight ship, and the caucus unfolded with military precision. She stressed that the caucus prevents decisions to be made outside of “smoke filled back rooms,” and spoke to the excitement the Washington GOP feels about being in the national spotlight. “You better believe we’re going to be on the national news tonight.”
Soon precincts were huddling up to vote on delegates and eventually, submit straw poll votes for a GOP presidential candidate. The din in the cafeteria sent some groups scrambling for quieter corners.
In the precinct I observed, the straw poll was split with 2 for Mitt Romney, 2 for Newt Gingrich, 3 for Rick Santorum, and 4 for Ron Paul (one Paul voter used a real silver dollar to make his point about the gold standard.) The precinct that Lucas sat in on had a stronger showing for Romney with 8 votes, Paul with 4, Santorum with 2, and none for Gingrich.
Discussions of GOP delegates ranged from precinct to precinct, with some engaging in heated debates, while others wrapped up their voting in matter of minutes, with little discussion about the individual candidates. That said, caucus-goer Isaac Anderson prefers the caucus process: “It feels more genuine that just mailing in a ballot.”
As the caucus wound to a close, Brown granted us an on-camera interview and said she hopes to call in the straw poll numbers in short order as “soon as the votes are finished.” “We will do a count right here,” Brown said.
Brown marveled at the size of the turnout — she guessed it was twice as large as 2008 — and the pride Washington Republicans felt about the exposure.
“I think it’s wonderful that we have this opportunity today for people to recognize that we have a process going on,” she said, and “that every opportunity and every effort was made so that they could come in and participate and that the rest of the country sees that ‘Oh wow, there are Republicans up there!’”
Lucas Anderson contributed to this post.
March 1, 2012 at 8:09 PM
PASCO — Rick Santorum lost a Republican presidential delegate in Michigan today but gained a cause.
Mitt Romney won convincingly in Arizona and narrowly in Michigan in primaries on Tuesday. The outcome in Michigan was particularly damaging for Santorum, who hit the social issues too hard for some and employed widely criticized robo-calls to Democrats to encourage them to vote on his behalf. National polls today show Romney well in front.
Still, it was so close in Michigan, the home state of Romney, that most observers expected a 15-15 delegate tie based on a state-party memo issued weeks earlier.
But Thursday morning the state’s Republican leadership decided that Romney merited one more delegate than Santorum, making it a 16-14 outcome for Romney. Party leadership said that it had erred in its memo, and that it was implementing already-agreed-upon rules.
The Santorum camp jumped on the decision. They went to town in a conference call, calling the decision “political thuggery” and “backroom dealing.” The Romney camp saw it differently, saying that “This is much todo about nothing.”
In a hotel ballroom this evening, before a raucous crowd of several hundred — following on the heels of visits to the area by Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — Santorum opened his remarks with the delegate decision.
“Romney has all the establishment, all the inside players. All the old boy network. Well, the old boy network went to work today,” Santorum said. “They were embarrassed by the results in Michigan. They called a meeting, and they went back and rewrote the rules, changed the rules.
“I don’t know about you,” he continued. “I may expect that in a banana republic, but you don’t expect that in America. And you don’t expect that from conservatives. Conservatives respect the rule of law. We accept the outcomes win or lose, and we keep coming if we lose. We don’t change the rules.”
And to close the riff: “But maybe since Governor Romney is new to being a conservative, maybe he didn’t understand this.”
The crowd roared. It’s the dynamic Santorum needs to win in Washington and to have a chance in the national primary contest. The calculus is not difficult to comprehend: if Santorum can channel the Tea Party insurgency of 2010 and run against The Establishment, he’s got a chance.
He knows it. In his speeches his voice rises when he talks about being an underdog.
He closed his speech by asking folks to stick around a while at the caucuses Saturday, to influence delegate selection. In his words, “We know that delegates matter.”
The next ones at stake are Saturday in Washington.