Obama in Pueblo redux

I love a good rally, and Pueblo definitely delivered.

After the Star Spangled Banner and Pledge of Allegiance a slew of Colorado politicos kicked off the Monday night event, including Pueblo’s Senator Abel Tapia, Secretary Federico Pena, Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, Governor Bill Ritter, and finally Senator Ken Salazar. Ritter and Salazar both hit hard on renewable energy and rural America, with Ritter and later Obama singling out the 500 jobs that are on their way to Pueblo via a new wind tower production facility by Vestas Energy. When completed it will be the largest facility of its kind in the world. (This stuck out for me because Vestas just received an award from a group I’m on the board of, the Colorado Conservation Voters, for the work they’ve done to energize Colorado’s new energy economy.)

Salazar talked at length about Obama’s commitment to rural communities, and his line about protecting our water got the biggest round of applause. According to Salazar, McCain has never supported a family farm or ranch bill, and opposed the latest farm bill. He’s also consistently voted against tax incentives for wind and solar energy development, while Obama will “take the same moonshot that took us to the moon under John Kennedy” to make American energy independent within the next ten years.

Then Obama took the stage. Republicans may mock the “rock star” status he has, but seriously — the crowd went nuts for this guy.

Earlier in the day I’d watched John McCain on CNN say that the fundamentals of our economy remain strong. My jaw dropped. Two major banks failed over the weekend — how does that indicate anything other than a serious financial disaster? Obama’s folks must have heard McCain, too, because after the obligatory thank yous, (and a mispronunciation of Senator Tapia’s last name, after also mispronouncing the name of the “Ute” tribe earlier that day in Grand Junction) Obama opened with a searing critique of McCain’s complete disconnect from the American people. Apparently McCain later tried to “clarify” his remarks, saying he only meant that American workers are strong, but Obama mocked that reversal as “not the kind of change we need.”

Obama went on to criticize McCain for jumping on the “change” bandwagon — not that change is bad, just that McCain’s a little late to the game. I haven’t seen it yet, but Obama says in a new commercial McCain actually claims he and Governor Sarah Palin would bring “the change we need” to Washington. Obama asked if that sounded familiar, then turned to a crowd of supporters behind him who waved Obama signs reading, “The Change We Need.” He went on to say, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but instead of borrowing our lines and slogans I wish he’d actually borrow some of our ideas!”

Great line.

Obama had another zinger about changing the way Washington works: “If you think those lobbyists on [McCain’s] campaign are working to put themselves out of business, I’ve got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska… We need to end the culture of money and politics in Washington. We have always been at our best when our leaders rallied around a higher purpose, a common purpose.” Beautifully put, as usual.

Obama also (once again) answered the major critique he’s faced since entering the race for President over a year ago — that he doesn’t have any details about what he’d actually do if elected. Here’s a few from the speech: eliminate the capital gains tax for small businesses and startups; lower taxes for all working families, making taxes lower than they were under Reagan; in ten years eliminate all the oil we import from the Middle East; “if you commit to serve your community or your country [Peace Corps, military, Americorps] we will guarantee you can afford to go to college;” in addition to already detailing how all of these programs will be paid for as a part of his plan, Obama said he would also go line by line through the federal budget and “eliminate the programs that no longer work, and make the programs we do need work better.”

So there. For more details head to Obama’s website.

Of course he also mentioned foreign policy, “we must keep America’s promise abroad,” but didn’t mention anything new here so I won’t go into it. And as I hoped he would, Obama accused McCain of “monkeying around” with Colorado’s water by suggesting we open the Colorado River Compact to renegotiation. In Grand Junction he had a sign on a water tower that read, “Protect Colorado’s Water” with the Obama “O” inside a water drop, apparently put up by “volunteers” and not the campaign itself. Something about laws or whatnot…

Obama ended with a line that sums up the overarching message of his insurgent campaign: “I’ve got something more powerful. I’ve got you. At defining moments in history change doesn’t come from Washington, it comes to Washington.” *roar of the crowd*

As a side note, I find myself far more inspired by Obama during these long-format events than from TV spots or earned media interviews. He has such power with words, but not as much in the sound bite format. It really hammers home for me the difference between the skills need to become a successful talking head versus those needed for more traditional speechmaking. Successful modern politicians certainly must have some of both, but Obama’s immense talent for speechmaking makes his average talent at sound bites all the more apparent.

Regardless, Obama gave a great speech down in Pueblo, and I think it will go a long way towards shoring up this strongly Democratic area. Whether it’s enough to win in November remains to be seen.

And Obama must have fantastic advance people. We ran into their camping at Jorge’s Mexican Restaurant after the speech, and they’ve got some of the best food in town.

Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governor’s races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small business issues.

Read Jeff’s latest commentaries.

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