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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Cantwell, Obama, an Exceptionally Hot Gym, and an Unsteady Campaign Event

Posted by on March 19 at 15:15 PM

On Thursday, Goldy over at HorsesAss suggested I had gone ga-ga for a certain political candidate. Today he has his own ga-ga moment, fawning over Washington Senator Maria Cantwell and her appearance at the Garfield High School gym yesterday with political wunderkind Barack Obama. (You can find other gushy coverage here, here, and here, and Seattle Times coverage here.)

I have to say, I don’t agree with Goldy that the event was a good sign for Cantwell, who’s running for re-election this year.

Supporters of Aaron Dixon, Cantwell’s nettlesome Green Party challenger, were outside the Garfield gym beforehand making noise, and Robert Jamieson of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had welcomed Cantwell to the Central District on Saturday morning by basically calling her an opportunist in print. Then, when Cantwell rose to speak, she was immediately interrupted by protesters holding up a long banner that read: “Maria Can’t Say No to War. Barak, Don’t Obom Iraq.”

Cantwell seemed flustered, and embarrassed to have brought her superstar Senate colleague all the way across the country for an anti-war ambush. As the protesters chanted, she made the standard stalling remarks about what a great country this is for allowing such dissent, and then said it was time to move on, that she wasn’t there to talk about the war, but rather about education.

That didn’t move the protesters, who kept chanting, and with the event teetering on the verge of collapse, King County Executive Ron Sims had to spring out of his seat on the dais and lead the crowd in a counter-chant of “Cantwell, Cantwell!” That gave Cantwell’s handlers enough time to hustle the protesters out of the gym, but the long, awkward moment reminded everyone in the audience that Cantwell voted for the war in Iraq and is unapologetic about it a position that isn’t going to serve her well in liberal Seattle, especially with a Green Party challenger nipping at her expensive heels (and on top of that a well-funded Republican challenger, former insurance company executive Mike McGavick).

Cantwell’s speech went on, and was received with strong applause. But then, shortly after Obama rose to speak, there was a loud thud. It was packed in the Garfield gym, and extremely warm, and someone had apparently fainted from all the body heat. That interrupted the event again, and brought back the teetering feeling. Obama, who has a breathtaking presence and a mesmerizing oratorical ability, was able to calm the crowd, made sure a doctor was taking care of the person, and then moved on. An elderly black woman who had brought a framed picture of Obama continued to hold it aloft every time he made a good point. But there were other things being held up during his speech as well: Signs saying, “Iraq Entering Year 4, How Many More,” and “Garfield PTSA Opposes Military Recruiters in Schools.”

Then someone shouted at Obama: “What about the war?”

Obama, too, wanted to talk about education, not the war. And not having been in the Senate when the decision to invade Iraq was made, he had an easy dodge. “Now hold on,” he said. “I didn’t vote for the war, young man.”

His speech continued, education was talked about, the crowd was enthralled by his magnetism, and Cantwell got her photo-op in what’s considered the heart of Seattle’s black community.

But I left with a sense of having watched a re-election campaign teeter, and with the feeling that Cantwell could land in serious trouble with her Seattle constituency if she doesn’t find a way to address the war nevermind her recent embrace of Idaho Republican Dirk Kempthorne’s nomination as Interior Secretary.

She’s lucky Obama’s star power smoothed the event over, and she’s also lucky she was only dealing with two tricky constituencies on Saturday, the black and anti-war communities. Imagine if environmentalists like Cienna Madrid had been in the crowd as well.

CommentsRSS icon

So that said, are you still as certain the Dems are gonna retain every seat they have in WA as you were when last week's cover story went to press? A divided constituency will open the door for a Republican challenger in a district you took for granted. It would be quite the irony if Darcy Burner did manage a win in the 8th... but the D's also lose Cantwell's seat.

Having met the tough question quota, a second question you'll probably be more comfortable with: What, in your opinion, does Cantwell need to do to recover the Democrat base's faith in her?

fuck cantwell.

I want Harry Reid to be in charge of the Senate. If Cantwell is the price we have to pay for that, so be it.


You know, I don't think Cantwell is in dire trouble in this race, yet. But that's only if you take the state-wide perspective. The state-wide polls show her very comfortably ahead of McGavick right now.

What I was getting at in my post is that she clearly has a delicate line to walk in Seatte. If the race tightens up toward the finish, a divided liberal base in this city is going to be Cantwell's achilles heel.

That said, I do still think Cantwell is likely to be reelected. She's going to have to work on her messaging around the war and the environment. But that's for her campaign to do. In terms of races that could be swung into the Dems' column by liberal activists getting involved, Burner's race is still the one in my mind.

My two hopes:

1. That Maria Cantwell is reelected.
2. That Eli Sanders figures out how to use the "permalink" button over at Horse's Ass dot org.

Oops, fixed it, I think.

Duly noted, Eli. I'll be curious to see what Cantwell's explanation to the voters will be, when queried on why she voted for the war come campaign time.

I know keeping Cantwell's seat D is huge, and I know politics requires compromise.

But if Cantwell is STILL unapologetic about voting for the war resolution now three years later, should I just buck up and accept that? Really?

Is "gushy" a real word? Encarta says "yes"! In any case, I plan to vote for Maria and will also be working this new word into my political vocabulary, asap.

Eli... TWO protesters chanted... count 'em... TWO. Out of nearly 2000 in attendance.

See, that's the problem with with objective reporting that likes to give "both sides" of the issue. We had a packed gymnasium with people eager to hear the senators speak, and TWO people who decided they wanted to disrupt the event by shouting down Cantwell.

Of course, that never would have happened at a Republican rally, because everybody would have been carefully screened and invited.


What Goldy doesn't mentio is that if you pull that crap at a Bush rally, you lose your job and they take you behind the portables and shoot you.

Isn't the next election going to be a top 2 election? If so there's no point in looking at people like Aaron Dixion and Mark Wilson. There's just noway they can get enough votes to knock Cantwell or McGavick out of the running and no worries about them splitting the the Democratic ticket and allowing McGavick to slip in.

Keep an eye on the race in the 5th CD Don Barlow looks really good. The 5th CD sent Tom Foley to congress for about 20 years and is the the home of D's like state sen. Lisa Brown, it's really not that solidly red. Also, about half the population of the 5th CD lives in Spokane County which has a small, but cool and growing progressive community.

Goldy complains that only two anti-war protestors showed up at the rally but he has chronicled Cienna Madrid's criticism of Cantwell as if it were the major knock liberal Dems have against our problem Senator.

As far as focusing on what the beef is, I think Eli is closer to the mark.

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