F&L: Amy Klobuchar From the Overflow Room

I’ve already told you about coming into Exeter a good hour ahead of schedule, and still seeing a horde of people already lined up around the block, waiting for Amy to show up at the Old Town Hall.  I didn’t mention the freezing drizzle, but there was that too.  Gotta love New Hampshire in February.

I’ve checked out the press arrangements ahead of time.  This event does have some nice perks for the Fourth Estate, including dedicated Q&A time.  What it doesn’t have is anyplace for us to sit and watch; as usual, there’s a tiny taped-off area in the back of the room, and even the cameras need extenders to be able to get a clear line of sight.  And even if we get in line right away, there’s no way as mere attendees that we’d get a chance of watching or meeting the candidate.  Of more immediate concern is the total absence of available parking.

We kill half an hour around the corner and come back; they’re finally letting people in.  Even more pleasant is the parking; Tech Guy Griff sees a spot open up between two TV vans and slips Vlad the Impala in slick as Clinton.  We’re set.

I’m used to slipshod staffing, but this place takes the cake.  There’s nobody in charge at the door; sign-in sheets are scattered with nobody tending them.  The volunteers aren’t talking to anyone; they’re chatting among themselves with complete unconcern.  Nobody’s interested in my press status; the only person who even registers our presence is the fire marshal at the door, who’s chanting that the hall is full and we have to go upstairs.

(Very officious, these public servants; very attentive to their duty.  Not a smile anywhere.  Bet they’re Trump voters, annoyed they can’t be at the other rally.)

On the way up, a distracted volunteer stops chattering long enough to hand me a strip of Amy stickers and asks me to hand them out myself.  Meh; why not?  Someone ought to be doing this, and if not the volunteers then who?

I’m surprised to see an empty room with a couple hundred folding chairs.  There’s A/V equipment in one corner but nobody’s working on it.  I commandeer a piano bench to one side so I can observe the crowd; Griff finds himself an honest-to-goodness armchair God knows where.  And the people keep flooding in.

By the time the candidate finally arrives, the upstairs room has reached its official occupancy.  (Unfortunately, this includes three volunteers who won’t stop babbling even after the first warm-up guy starts talking.  I have a quiet word with them.)  There’s a couple hundred people still standing outside in the nasty weather, and extra loudspeakers have been set up for them and us.

The warm-up guy has sense enough to get the hell outta the way, and Amy is there.  Wild applause from downstairs; not a twitch up here.  She apologizes to the people stuck outside in the rain, and we can hear them cheer dimly.  And then she mentions there’s an overflow room; “Where’s that?” she asks.  We stomp our feet.  The whole building shakes, and she laughs aloud.  “I love it!  I’ve got to come find you after.  This is great!”

She’s not a sophisticated speaker; her stump speech is passionate but sincere.  She takes a moment to praise Mitt Romney for his impeachment courage (wild applause downstairs; stomping up here).

Her platform is energy and honesty, and she speaks it plainly.  She’s clever and not ashamed to show it…  And at the same time, it’s easy to tell she has to overcome her natural humility to tell us about her accomplishments.  That appeals here in New Hampshire.

She’s funny and happy and cheerful, optimistic and contagious with it; and slowly she comes to own the audience, who’s loving everything she has to say:  Build a big wall of blue votes and make Trump pay.  Obligation to pay society back for the start we got.  Improve things not destroy them.  Nonprofit public insurance options.  Take on big pharma and win.  Fight climate change — and she drops a horrible pun:  “Build a fridge to the future”.  She has the grace to apologize.

It becomes very clear that Amy Klobuchar is all about the issues, and she’s got a detailed plan for each of them.  She approves of bipartisanship, and she lectures us a bit on how we all have to work together if we’re going to overcome the divide and hate in this country (it gets grudging applause but loud stomping).  But mostly, she’s an incrementalist; she gets things done a little bit at a time, and she’s good at it.

We’ve got to run to get to the next event and so does she; no time for the meet-and-greet, alas.  But she still takes a moment to say hi to the overflow crowd, and she’s faced with a wave of love and excitement — this from a group that’s mostly been standing out in freezing drizzle off and on for the past hour.  And everyone’s smiling, cheerful, and hopeful.

That’s how good she is.

I leave this event with no doubt in my mind that Klobuchar will have a strong turnout in this area, that she’s a serious candidate, and that given the chance she could run the country.  Put her on a debate stage with Donald Trump and she’ll destroy him.  She’s got no ground game, but on the other hand once Super Tuesday hits she won’t need one.

Someone feed this campaign some money.

While we’re at it, let me remind you to feed The Not Fake News some money.  We’re doing this in the hope that someone will find our work useful enough that they’ll think it worth tossing us a few bucks.  Of course, if you don’t, that’s fine too; there’s nothing that says we have to keep doing this. I hear Bloomberg is paying $6500 a month for content.

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