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Obama's Final Rally

[Cross-posted from The Trail.]

Like human landscaping -- an artificial lake of humanity -- the Obama supporters filled a vast swale at the Prince William County Fairgrounds on Monday night. This was the last rally for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, just 22 months after his December 2006 visit to New Hampshire unofficially jump-started the 2008 contest.

There had been something like 75,000 people or more at Obama rallies in Portland and Denver and St. Louis, but this one might have been larger still. People began streaming in at 5 p.m. Traffic on Route 28 South, heading into Manassas, became glacial three hours before the official 9 p.m. start time. Backups on I-66 at exit 53 extended for several miles. Most people parked in shopping centers or neighborhoods and walked the last mile or so, past the button and T-shirt vendors and a guy blasting a rather cheesy Obama "theme song." Someone on stage threw out a crowd estimate of 80,000, and later Obama, perhaps with more experience estimating crowds than most Americans, offered up 100,000 ("...that's how you wind up with 100,000 people on a Monday night in November").

[No more than 99,995 were old enough to vote, since I had brought five 17-year-old high school seniors who were somewhere out in there in the mass of people, and who later told me they survived the long wait (three hours plus) for Obama by dancing in place. Music: Kanye West; U2; Earth, Wind and Fire. At that age they can dance even without externally produced music. The only hitch in the evening, they said, was that they were so far back in the crowd they were barely in same zip code as the candidate. My eldest reports, "You could squint and make out a little figure. But you couldn't tell it was Obama."]

Obama took the stage about 90 minutes late. A great cloud of what appeared to be dust drifted from behind the bleachers and through the air near the stage. Someone said it was fog, like a theatrical effect. No: just dust, stirred up by some element of the motorcade or entourage.

The senator used a teleprompter, but by this point he could have delivered his signature lines blindfolded and upside down. His voice seemed to have a little extra animation when he said of campaigning, "You can keep your dignity, keep your decency, and still win."

He told the familiar story about how a short lady in a big church hat taught him the "Fired up! Ready to go!" chant. He's told the anecdote a million times but seemed to relish the tale anew, maybe because he wouldn't have to use it again for a while.

"Virginia, your votes can change the world!" he roared at the end.

Lingering amid the traveling press corps was Obama campaign mastermind David Axelrod. He was optimistic going into Election Day. He noted favorable reports coming out of the field offices, and the polling showing Obama with an advantage, and the voter registration figures skewing toward the Democrats. But he remained cautious:

"I feel good about it. But it's all theory until it happens."

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 4, 2008; 10:22 AM ET
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Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | November 4, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

self importantly reposted from the last boodle-

Potomac News/Manassas Journal Messenger reports crowd size of 85,000

Nate Silver's #10 reason to ignore exit polling-
"10. You'll know the actual results soon enough anyway. Have patience, my friends, and consider yourselves lucky: in France, it is illegal to conduct a poll of any kind within 48 hours of the election. But exit polls are really more trouble than they're worth, at least as a predictive tool. An independent panel created by CNN in the wake of the Florida disaster in 2000 recommended that the network completely ignore exit polls when calling particular states. I suggest that you do the same."

Although I think he should have done these in reverse order, like Letterman. This would then be #1. (And what was he thinking to say we'd have the results "soon enough?" Yesterday wouldn't have been soon enough.

Must go get some work done, must tear myself away from the computer.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 4, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I just got home from our polling place: In at 8.15, out at 10.00. I'm on pins and needles hoping, 'Mudge, that the streets across the nation will be filled with good noise. I will now join my son to watch Over The Hedge.

Posted by: -jack- | November 4, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm taking a break from Get Out the Vote efforts in my Democratic-leaning Virginia city. Another volunteer came into the staging office with a report that at at least one polling place, things were messing up. In Virginia, apparently, there are separate softwares in the voting machines for "Presidential" and "Federal" elections, and election people were asking voters which they'd prefer. Federal gets you all 3 races, while Presidential gets just the big one. It won't affect Obama's numbers, but Mark Warner and Sam Rasoul might lose out. Warner's lead is so great that it probably won't hurt his Senate chances, but Rasoul needs all the help he can get. So if you're voting in Virginia, make sure you ask for the Federal package, if asked.
Thanks for the description of the rally, Joel. We had 8500 at a rally here last month, and that seemed pretty good, but I love to hear that NoVa is bringing out that many people the night before the election.

Posted by: meezermom | November 4, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Wow, meezermom. That's... bizarre. I foresee some legal action there.

At our location, they were using both touchscreen and fill-in-the-bubble paper ballots. There was no wait for paper, so I went that way. It had all of the choices that it was supposed to.

Posted by: bobsewell | November 4, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse


That is troubling. Why would you not want to give each voter the chance to vote on every candidate? And the Presidential/Federal names make it sound like an either/or choice.

Our software reminded me that I had only voted for 2 of the 3 school board seats I was entitled to. I went back and eeny-meeny-moed a third lucky candidate.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 4, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Carried over from the last kit - I thought that Matt Wuerker's cartoon in Politico today was pretty cute:

Posted by: bobsewell | November 4, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Just got back from voting. Took all of 15-20 min at 10:30.

A couple of observations:

For most of when I was in line, there were a group of people (10 or so) surrounding one of the electronic voting booths. They were talking, pointing and taking pictures. If this was a third world country I would have guessed they were international observers. Any ideas?

Like BobS, we had the choice of paper or electronic. It seemed to me that more people went for the electronic, even though there was a line, than the paper for which there was no line. (There were only a few dozen people voting at this point.) So does that mean we trust electronic voting more than paper, or we've gotten used to it and going back to paper is now different?

Posted by: astromom | November 4, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

And, heck, since I'm on a comics riff, did anyone link to this one before?

"The world according to Sarah Palin"

Posted by: bobsewell | November 4, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Yeesh! Last Kit wouldn't refresh for most of an hour, only saw the new Kit when I posted something! :-O

Not that I know anything, but something sounds wrong about having "different softwares" running during a single election.

Astromom, could they have been...

JOURNALISTS??? *jarring pipe organ chord* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 4, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

My strategy to NOT vote early pretty much worked. I was in line for maybe 15 minutes at most.

My precinct contains a lot of public housing and very few anglo-saxons or European-ancestry folks overall. There was a "kids vote" thing where kids could cast totally fake "ballots" into a cardboard box, and so some kindergarten class was there. It was a long selection for me with all the contests, and I had to check my cribsheet all through my procedure, and look and make sure the paper tape printed my choices. As I was leaving, a bunch of little kids were posing outside for their teacher's camera, and instead of "cheese" they all shouted "Obama!"

As I drove off, the weight of the moment hit me. I felt like a Berliner chiseling out a chunk of the Wall. I felt so glad I could take part in this. I got a little choked up for one second, then drove home, keeping my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel.

Let it roll, baby.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 4, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Chris Cilliza (The Fix) in his chat says he thinks Libby Dole will lose in NC, due to her "Godless" ad. Good fording riddance.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | November 4, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Scotty - I don't think they were journalists. (There was one of those outside though). The pictures weren't posed, more like tourists. If it hadn't been a voting station, I would have said it was a tour group.

Posted by: astromom | November 4, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 4, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Son of G was so antsy to vote that we went over around 10:30 and were home by 11:00--and that was taking time to talk to neighbors and friends we ran into there. Voting is so much fun and I figure those folks I saw with huge smiles had voted Democratic.

When we left after putting our paper ballots in the scanner (which looked suspiciously like a shredder) Son of G and I hugged and he gave me a huge kiss. A big moment for a young man.

We return at 2 for our two-hour shift at the polls. The kids are handing out sample ballots and I'll be a Democratic observer.

I'm exhausted after standing for 11 hours yesterday/last night in Manassas. Being about 20 feet away from Obama made it worth it and having my daughter and her friend there was great (and the reason I went).

Joel doesn't mention the near mutiny when the musicians decided we should try to make the Guiness Book of World Records and all do the Electric Slide. But the crowd was energetic, friendly and I feel like we made some great friends.

We managed to meet up with our Obamateers and their group, so we had fun getting to know them. The young men staying with us were being picked up at 3 am to be at the polls in Prince William County before they opened and we got home around 2 am. I had to say good-bye to them last night because there was no way I was awake at 3:00.

Son of G and I are going to the celebration tonight in McLean. We'll take our laptops and hope they have wifi there. So live boodling may be in the cards for us.

Those of you who haven't yet... make sure you VOTE!


Posted by: -TBG- | November 4, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

As a norwegian i donĀ“t presume to advance an analysis of American politics... but how I envy you Mr.Obama! Please America, go for change!

Posted by: in-v-lun | November 4, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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