This is meant to be the the age of apathy. Politics is meant to be so managerial and technocratic, and the public so materialistic, that political participation has become the domain of the eccentric. Yet in Charleston last night – a city the same size as Crawley or Colchester – Hillary Clinton was able to attract an audience of well over a thousand at just a day’s notice. The “line” began two hours before the event: families, pensioners, students, some straight from the office giving up their Friday evening plans.
Clinton was introduced by her husband and flanked Chelsea and an impressive array of supporters including prominent Representative Charlie Rangel and former-mayor of New York David Dinkins. She spoke for 45 minutes with a positive message high on policy detail. Lines about bringing the troops home from Iraq and introducing healthcare got the crowd going. She rarely alluded to Obama but did at one point describe herself as a “workhorse not a showhorse.”
The crowd had plenty of time at the end for autographs and pictures, and they lapped it up. These politicians really know how to work a room. The polls this morning give Obama a ten-point lead but he is haemorrhaging support from whites. As with New Hampshire and Nevada, I expect a number of voters will switch from Obama or Edwards to Clinton in the privacy of the polling booth. The rain may also assist. Either way, it’s going to be close and the turnout will, once again, be on the rise.