On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend the McCain/Palin Road to the Convention Rally in O’Fallon, MO (just west of St. Louis and we call everything around here St. Louis). This was my first political rally that I had ever attended. I was already pretty excited for the rally earlier in the week because of the newness. When I stopped by the local Victory 08 office, the workers were already saying that the buzz for the event was higher than that of President Bush’s visit to the area in 2004. This didn’t really surprise me. Saint Charles County is probably one of the reddest areas of the state and has increasingly become so since 2004 (I imagine your surprise at finding out that the Republican dominated county has lower taxes than the Democrat dominated St. Louis County next door.) My excitement for the rally reached a fever pitch on Friday morning. Senator McCain had announced that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would be his running mate. The handful of RedState and Minority Report regulars that I converse with on a regular basis will attest that I couldn’t stop talking about the rally. Not only was I going to be part of the send off to Minnesota, I was now going to be witness to the future of the party (because make no mistake about it, the crop of young, reform minded candidates that we have is the future of the party).
I arrived somewhat early to the rally. Throughout the week there was buzz that the turnout was going to be “high”. Expectations were that attendance was going to be about 10,000. Imagine my surprise when I pull into the field that was converted into a parking lot (We can discuss the wisdom of filling a field with roughly 1,500 cars with only one exit/entrance some other time.). The staff that was working the parking lot said that they had given out far more tickets than 10,000 with lots of people showing up without tickets. Attendance was now expected to be as high as 25,000! The line was incredibly long to get into the park. Not only was turnout far higher than expected, but we had to pass through a Secret Service check-point (which if you have never done was quite like passing through security at the airport).
On my way into the rally I tried to make sure that I interacted with as many people as possible. There was a very wide range of people there. Some old, some young (who says Obama has the college students cornered), mostly white and yes, some black (it is St. Charles County after all. It’s not a very racially diverse crowd to start with). The topics of discussions were very broad: Obama as a typical liberal, taxes, immigration, Hurricane Gustav (I introduced a few people to absentee’s video of Fowler. Not too many people were surprised), and McCain’s chances in November. The overwhelming buzz of the day, however, was Gov Sarah Palin. She has energized the Republican base like no other choice for Vice President could have. Social conservatives and fiscal conservatives alike were happy with this selection. As with here on RedState and The Minority Report, the different factions of the party gave “If “blank” were the VP, I wouldn’t vote in November” statements.
Senator McCain and Governor Palin were joined by Governors Romney and Huckabee. Both men spoke of the need for the party to come together despite differences in the primaries. Huckabee quipped that the two of them may not have agreed on everything during the primaries. “You may have noticed that” he said after the crowd laughed. What they did agree on is that Senator McCain must be the next President of the United States.
Senator McCain took the opportunity to highlight the need for prayers and preparation ahead of Hurricane Gustav hitting the gulf coast. What we didn’t know at the time was that Senator McCain had just given a news conference declaring that much of the convention would be dramatically altered. He then spent the rest of his speech continuing the process of introducing his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin. He praised her for the reform that she has been able to accomplish in a short amount of time in office.
Last up was the star of the show. Governor Palin was greeted with thunderous applause. She then gave an impassioned (although much more scripted) speech. She praised Senator McCain’s service to the country in one of the more touching spontaneous moments of the rally. Her praised started a chorus of “Thank You” from the crowd. You could sense the visible emotion on Senator McCain’s face. (Earlier in the rally a fellow POW had spoken about how none of them feel that they are heroes. They only did what they needed to do so that they could return home with honor. Much of the praise that they get often makes them a bit uncomfortable.) Governor Palin then went on to highlight even more about her record in government. If it wasn’t clear already, the word reform is going to dominate the language of this campaign.
Between the conversations with all of my fellow conservatives and Republicans, the appearance of two former adversaries on stage together and the way that Governor Palin spoke and carried herself I left the rally in very high spirits. The road ahead is going to be tough (what election isn’t), but for the first time since this election has started I feel that there is a very good chance that Senator McCain and Governor Palin will be taking up new offices come January 9,2009. (Oh, and yes, that is my hand shaking Senator McCain’s hand…or at least the best picture I could get of the hand shake.)
So, you might be wondering why I chose the title. You see, a sea of red is not something that is all that unusual in St. Louis. Cardinal fans are known to pack Busch Stadium game after game wearing mostly red. This was different. This sea of red was dedicated to turning as many Missouri offices red also. There was a lot of talk in the lead up to the Straight Talk Express arriving in who was running for various offices and who they were running against. That’s some of the stuff that you never see on TV. It’s clear that the organizers of this event knew that a President could only be effective if he (or someday she) has the legislators, governors and state legislators to support their vision of America. So I ask you all today to join this sea of red (yeah, I guess you Cubs fans can get over the analogy) and help turn every office red.
Cross-posted at The Minority Report