The line snaked around the building when I arrived at the ODU Ted Constant Center for the rally with Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds and President Barack Obama. Inside, the facility was already filling up.
Although the arena seats 7,319, the area behind the stage was curtained off. Approximately one-half of the arena floor, which can be used to boost seating to 10,000, was occupied by rally attendees with guaranteed admissions tickets, like those I gave away on this blog. The remainder of the floor was occupied by the press, with one row of press seating, then the risers for the cameras, followed by a couple of other rows for the press. The estimates of attendance – between 4,700 and 5,900 – sound about right.
There were two pre-rally receptions: one with the president for high-dollar donors and another with the governor for more modest donations. Both of those receptions were scheduled to take place between 3 and 4pm and came with preferred seating to the right side of the stage (looking forward). The president arrived early, so the initial schedule – pre-progam was to begin at 3:50pm and the rally at 4:55pm – was moved up. In fact, when the program began, the people attending the receptions weren’t even in their seats.
Levar Stoney, former DPVA executive director, now Deeds’ political director, acted as MC for the event. When he announced the first speaker, hesitating after the word “president,” the crowd went wild. He was introducing, of course, ODU President John Broderick. In fairly quick succession, we heard from AG candidate Steve Shannon, LG candidate Jody Wagner and Gov. Tim Kaine. Probably the funniest moment of the affair was when the woman singing the National Anthem messed up the words! Perhaps she was nervous but man – she was making up the words as she went along. Not quite the same as Ella Fitzgerald, but still.
Deeds gave a better version of his stump speech than I’ve heard before. He seemed more relaxed, which is a good thing. But the crowd was there for Obama and went wild when the president took the stage. (Both the remarks of Deeds and Obama, as prepared, are available here.)
Do I wish this rally had taken place a few weeks ago? You betcha I talked to some folks afterwards that hadn’t felt any connection to the race until yesterday. One person with whom I spoke had worked tirelessly for Terry McAuliffe in the primary but had done nothing since. (Yeah – I’m looking back at the “unity” rally that wasn’t.) The good news is that some folks who weren’t planning to vote Tuesday will do so. The question remains whether enough of them will.
One more note: where in the heck were Mark Warner, Jim Webb and Glenn Nye?