Racing from rural Greeley, the Biden caravan is heading into blue collar territory with a swing through the aptly-named Commerce City, a small industrial community north of Denver. And with the 45-mile commute south, the campaign has traded in the unmistakable stench of feed lots and animal rendering at the Greeley meat packing plant for the decidedly pungent scent of diesel exhaust and greasy funk from the Rocky Mountain West’s largest oil refinery that pumps out up to 90,000 barrels per day.
I’m at the Adams City High School gym — home of the Eagles — with an expected capacity crowd of 1,500 filling old wood bleachers and folding chairs on the basketball floor.
4:29 p.m.: Nice-sized crowd for mid-day
They’re a resilient bunch here in Adams County. It’s an uncharacteristically gloomy day here but neither rain nor sleet has chased the Obama supporters from a long line trailing down Dalia Street.
4:31 p.m.: Diana DeGette takes the stage to raucous applause
The podium is centered at mid-court and surrounded by enthusiastic former constituents until Adams County was redistricted into CD 7 now represented by Democrat Ed Perlmutter.
DeGette fires up the crowd with a plea for health care. She calls the McCain plan a disaster because the insurance benefits would be taxable.
“We can’t wait for lightening to strike… or tax credits to pay for it,” says DeGette. “We need change and a new direction.”
4:35 p.m.: Another call for early voting
As emphasized at the Greeley event, DeGette implores folks to bring 10 people to the polls to vote for Obama. She introduces Federico Peña who is surprisingly popular here. The crowd goes nuts.
4:38 p.m.: Peña makes the blue collar case
He claims that 98 percent of Adams County families will benefit from Obama-Biden’s economic policies.
Peña provides a run down of Biden’s Senate record that supported putting more police officers on the streets and protected women from domestic abuse. “We’ve got a great candidate for Vice President of the United States. That would be enough for me” and then launches into Biden’s foreign policy experience to distinguish him from GOP VP Sarah Palin’s thin resume.
Crowd leaps to its feet. Wow. I missed the caffeine station in the parking lot that the crowd appears to have availed itself of.
4:45 p.m.: Lots of Hispanic voters here
A local organizer for the Obama campaign is repeating her speech emphasizing the importance of turning out for early voting to the Spanish-speaking elements of the crowd.
Shouts of “si se puede” burst spontaneously from the audience.
4:49 p.m.: Much better music selection here
Up tempo, kinda 80s new wave-ish reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnyman. If I had to hear “Ain’t No Stopping Me Now” one more time I was going to commit a senseless act of violence.
My 5-cent psychological assessment of the crowd: Commerce City seems more genuinely excited about the Biden visit. Even with the lull in the speakers, the crowd is buoyant, talking with one another and still filling the last remaining seats.
Does [peppy] music soothe the savage beast?
4:59 p.m.: No sign of Joe
The traveling press hasn’t arrived yet either except for a few stragglers. Must be napping after their luxurious catered lunch in Greeley. But I’m not bitter that the local media got bupkis. No, not me. Just say “no” to cocktail weenies, comrades.
5:02 p.m.: Surprise guest – SEIU president Andy Stern
Talking about how political leaders have built the middle class. “Eighty percent say the country is heading in the wrong direction,” says Stern. Calls out to the crowd if that’s what they want or do they want change.
I feel like I’ve been transported to a union hall in Cleveland. Stern is throwing out some serious red meat on work, taxes and taking care of one’s family. Education is a big theme as well. Cries out that families shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage so they can send their kids to college.
“Are you ready for change? Are you ready to vote?,” yells Stern. The crowd goes nuts.
5:07 p.m.: Thornton resident puts a working family face on the festivities
Sternr introduces a local woman and Obama campaign volunteer who relates that she is losing two-thirds of her income because of a job cut at work. Her husband who has bladder cancer is unable to work and their group health insurance premium tops out at $920 per month.
You could hear a pin drop as she tells her story.
Crowd rises to its feet to thunderous applause as she introduces Joe Biden.
5:10 p.m.: Shout out to Ed Perlmutter
Biden zings McCain by telling the crowd that their congressman couldn’t be at the event because he’s back in Washington, D.C., trying to get the economy moving again.
Interesting that Biden has a whole different warm-up act for this crowd than Greeley. Very responsive crowd is lavishing him with applause, hoots and hollers.
Makes a pitch for U.S. Senate candidate and CD 2 Rep. Mark Udall aside from the campaign stump and laughs that the staff will be mad at him for going off-script.
5:15 p.m.: Here comes the red meat
Biden publicly thanks Gen. Collin Powell for his endorsement and vows to take his experience to the White House. Crowd jumps to its feet.
Biden is recycling his Greeley speech themes but thankfully not verbatim.
Goes on to joke that 39 other senators are older than him as a subtle swipe at John McCain’s age and then makes a weird rhetorical left turn by pitching early voting.
He pounces on economic concerns about jobs, mortgages and college tuition then circles back to Stern’s speech on the American Dream. The crowd nods and shouts out in affirmative.
Calls Andy Stern “the single brightest guy in the progressive movement.”
5:21 p.m.: He doth protest too much redux
Biden revisits McCain’s argument at the last debate that he’s not George Bush.
Brings up his walk/talk/quack like a duck analogy on John McCain’s record and speeches equating him to the president. The crowd roars.
Biden’s feeding off the energy. He shouts about growing middle class and small business to fix the economy.
5:25 p.m.: “I’m not playing the populist card”
Biden lays out policy for job creation. States that John McCain is a good person but “we need more than a good soldier. We need a wise leader.” Crowd leaps to its feet cheering wildly.
He continues that a proposed $3,000 tax breaks will stimulate job growth. He argues that Bush has dug the nation into a deep economic hole.
The folks here are completely rapt. They are eating out of Biden’s hand. It’s pretty electrifying to see it happen.
5:29 p.m.: I’ve lost count of the “middle class” references
A woman shouts out “woooo” when Biden references Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey. Seriously.
Biden recounts a Casey quip: “You can’t call yourself a maverick, if all you’ve been for the last eight years is a sidekick.” And folks go nuts.
Like the Greeley speech, people are electrified when Biden talks about ending the war in Iraq. And notes Bush negotiating a timetable for withdrawing troops by next year.
“Barack Obama has been right and John McCain has been wrong.” Shouts and screams ensue.
5:33 p.m.: “A lot of people are on the cusp”
Biden mentions fast-tracking building projects and helping states recover from the economic crisis. He says that McCain is not faring well because he’s working from pillar to post with no good ideas.
He launches on Sarah Palin about her remark about being in 2nd grade when he was elected to the Senate. “But she was in sixth grade when John McCain had a good idea on the economy.”
The crowd eats it up.
He claims that McCain said on the stump today — paraphrasing — that “we have to wait and see” on what Congress should do on the second stimulus package requested by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.
He bellows “what are we waiting for?” and the crowd erupts again.
5:38 p.m.: Robocalls and respect
Biden talks about the automated negative calls peppering Colorado voters to shouts from the crowd “yeah!”.
He implores the opposition to stop the partisanship. “Talk about the economy, John. Talk about the economy, Gov. Palin,” he shouts. The attendees rise to their feet one more time.
He revisits his Greeley stump speech about uniting the country and being indivisible as a nation.
Boy, these folks like to cheer. One more standing ovation.
5:42 p.m.: Change we can believe in
Biden says to appeal to the better angels and work for change in transforming government.
Here we go with the early vote nosh. Biden shouts “get up” and the crowd leaps again to its feet to strains of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed and Delivered,” like the Greeley speech.
A pumped up crowd files out of the gym while Biden takes pictures from the theater-in-the-round stage with a crowd of supporters five-deep.
That’s it from Adams County.