October 22, 2010

Clinton finally shows up, and the message is show up and vote

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

“Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” – or is that when Bill Clinton is actually going to get here?

The crowds were already lining up at 2:30 on Federal Hill in Baltimore Thursday afternoon for an O’Malley rally with the former president. The pre-game show was supposed to start at 3:30 – sort of — but would this event run on not-so-prompt O’Malley time or notoriously-late Bill Clinton time?

When the speeches started at 4:10, we got some clue. When the Democrats had run out of county executives, congressmen, senators and other elected officials – including a typically long-winded Elijah Cummings – the thumping music started again, and we got our answer. Reset your watches for Clinton time.

The babies started crying and the dogs started barking and the woman in fatigues smoking politically incorrect cigarettes kept singing and shouting “gazillion.”

And at 5:30, as the autumn sun slowly set over West Baltimore, Mr. Bill took the stage, and he had a good excuse. Clinton said he started the day at a rally in South Florida, then he flew to Asheville, North Carolina, that pretty city in the mountains, and now he was in Baltimore, and very happy about it, too.

He was relaxed and funny (and thin) and along with reframing of the national debate in the Democrats’ favor, his message was the same as those who had spoken before him: “Show up” for this election, or we will lose. And with a week of early voting starting Friday, there was no excuse not to.

“By Nov. 2, all of our Democratic votes will be in the box,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and this in a city where voter turnout is expected to be exceptionally low.

“Vote early but not often,” said Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

“This election is going to be all about turnout,” said Attorney General Doug Gansler. “We should be bragging about all the things we’ve done.” (Gansler asked for some “love,” even though he admitted, “I’m the only unopposed statewide candidate in the United States. I don’t know how that happened.”)

“If voters turn out, we win,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, grateful for the six-year term that keeps him off the ballot next month. “Now let’s get the vote out.”

“This election could be determined by one or two votes either way,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley, clearly elated to be on stage with Clinton, who had helped him raise money and support in 2006.

After listing all the reasons why people should support O’Malley – jobs, schools, college tuition, health care – Clinton pointed to Virginia, which elected a Republican governor last year. You don’t want President Obama surrounded by Republican governors, do you?

Clinton urged the African-Americans and people under 30 who turned out in record numbers to vote for Obama two years ago to show up again.

There’s an excellent piece about the Clinton’s frantic campaign tour in Friday’s Washington Post by Phil Rucker, the roving national correspondent who just three years ago was a novice State House reporter in Maryland.