Wesley Clark — he’s just “Wes” to you and me now that he’s a politician — appeared at a rally at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire this afternoon and I was there with bells on.
I have discovered the secret to successful primary rally attendance: arrive 45 minutes early. If you arrive 45 minutes early, you will (a) get a good parking space, and (b) get a good seat. If you don’t arrive early, you will (a) have to park 3 miles away, on the side of a road, and walk in sub-zero temperatures to the hall and (b) will probably not get in, as the fire inspector will have already closed the hall.
I arrived 45 minutes early, and, posing as a resident of New Hampshire, was shown to a good seat in the “special seats we’ve received for residents” section, 6 or 7 rows back from the dais.
This was the most barnburner of a rally I’ve attended here so far — tremendous rah-rah-rah, stomp-stomp-stomp and military-style marching chants. As one person said to an organizer on the way out “you guys have a great advance team!”
The “very special guests” supporting Clark included actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, former New York Mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Gov. Jim Hodges (SC), Congressman Mike Ross (D-AR), and Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus, Ohio.
Plenty of pictures here, including many of Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen!
Ross spoke first, followed by Coleman, who then introduced Danson and Steenburgen. Steenburgen was there, she explained, because her mother and Clark’s used to work in the same bank in Little Rock. Danson, presumably, was there because he’s married to Steenburgen.
After brief, well-spoken and witty remarks from Dinkins and Rangel, there was a confusing and tear-jerking-attempting speech by Gail Kruzel, whose husband, a colleague of Clark’s, was killed in the Balkans. Clark gave her his wedding ring at his funeral. Touching, and more than a little awkward.
Clark then bounded to the stage, and spoke for 45 minutes on a variety of issues, concentrating on “leadership” in its various incarnations. Lots of rah-ra-rah. Lots of “George Bush is in for a lickin’.” Some talk of issues, with few specifics. A few token questions at the end. More stomping. And then the end.
The audience was decidely different from Dean on Friday (Birkenstocks and Apple Cider) and Kerry on Saturday (Firemen and Organized Labor): Clark appears to attract the “khaki-wearing vice-principal” demographic, along with its related “khaki-wearing math teacher” strain. There were also plenty of balding geeky types, and good dose of “looking for leaderhip intellectual suburbanites”.
It was weird sitting besides otherwise rational people, having substantive policy discussions, and then only minutes later, to have them break out into paroxysms of “We Want Clark,” waving their signs, and bouncing their balloons.
I’m taking tomorrow off to do some real work; up to Manchester on Tuesday night for the results.