How did the national media cover St. Paul last night?

The line of folks waiting to attend the Obama rally snaked throughout downtown St. Paul, way past this group outside Landmark Center.
MinnPost photo by Jay Weiner
The line of folks waiting to attend the Obama rally snaked throughout downtown St. Paul, way past this group outside Landmark Center.

Some Chamber of Commerce type will probably calculate the mega-million-dollar-value of St. Paul’s national-media moment in the sun last night, but the honest truth is the city was basically a bit player in most Obama speech reports this morning. Locals were less restrained; I’ll get to them in a minute.

Keep in mind, national reporters have witnessed similar enthusiasm throughout this endless campaign, so there’s a dog-bites-man pro forma to most mentions. Typical is the Washington Post, which briefly refers to a “chanting and cheering audience in St. Paul.” The L.A. Times notes a “roaring crowd,” but the New York Times can’t even muster up an adjective.

Still, some correspondents put a bit more enthusiasm into depictions of the local atmospherics.

Slate’s John Dickerson offers the lengthiest and best-written crowd review: “It’s likely the venue has not heard applause that loud at any Minnesota Wild game. When (Obama) promised that he would not use religion as a wedge, the Coke in the bottle next to my laptop rippled from the vibrations. (The 12,000 standing outside reportedly went just as bonkers into the balmy night.)” Dickerson notes Minnesota Dems booed John McCain at first, then cheered when Obama praised his military service.

More Dickerson: “They came in Dashikis, tattoos, T-shirts with Time magazine covers showing a smiling Obama, and in bright-yellow rain jackets…. They danced to Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin and chanted while they waited.”

A few reporters contrast the local passion with the somnambulant audience John McCain drew in Kenner, La. The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder writes of the St. Paul scene: “What a different emotional register from John McCain’s; Obama seems on the verge of tears; the enormous crowd in the Xcel center seems ready to lift Obama on its shoulders; the much smaller audience for McCain’s speech interrupted his remarks with stilted cheers.”

The (Melbourne) Australian’s Geoff Elliot blogs, “The roof is lifting off here at the Excel (sic) Energy sports arena in St Paul, Minnesota. There’s about 15,000 people roaring every note of Barack Obama’s address. He has just claimed victory for the Democratic Party’s nomination. The noise was ear-splitting when he did. The choice of venue was another clever piece of political theatre that has characterised the supreme organisation of the Obama campaign.”

The conservative National Review didn’t like Obama’s music choice: “U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ is playing at the Barack Obama rally. No Americans write music Obama likes?” writes Greg Pollowitz.

Back home, both local dailies’ front pages banner the speech, emphasizing the “first black” factor. (Not to be a killjoy, but Obama is biracial.) As of 8 a.m., the rally gets an unusual double-column banner headline on the PiPress’s website; the Strib leads with the speech but doesn’t blow out its format.

The crowd? Monstrous. The Strib and PiPress each say 32,000 people tried to get in — though if this were a Twins-Yankees game, Pat Reusse would complain about the attendance. MPR is squishier, estimating the number at “30,000 to 40,000” because some people might’ve left. About 17,000 made it inside, and stood for the whole speech, the Minnesota Daily reports. The rest watched on a big screen outside.

One of the more amazing  aspects was a line that snaked more than a mile through downtown St. Paul — MPR and the PiPress each have great graphics of the winding path. MPR’s Bob Collins notes “for all of [Obama’s] oratorical skills, he cannot possibly deliver a message anywhere near as eloquently as the tens of thousands of people who lined up on the streets of St. Paul.” He has the best photos and descriptions of the crowd.

Clever vendors paid $70 for a peddling fee, the PiPress’s Jessica Huang and John Brewer report. Freelancers were rousted by police. The Strib says hot items included Obama hats and playing cards with Republicans as jokers. The PiPress’s City Hall Scoop fixates on the weirdos.

WCCO’s Pat Kessler says Obama tried to call Hillary Rodham Clinton multiple times last night — but got her voicemail!

Local Clinton backers? The PiPress’s Dave Orrick says Hillary’s high-profile supporters were “a bit starstruck” after a private meeting with Obama following the Xcel rally. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher terms Obama’s olive branch a “classy move” (definitely classier than their candidate’s defiant non-concession speech), but it was “don’t ask, don’t tell” for superdelegate endorsements. Anderson Kelliher say most are “on hold” awaiting Clinton’s attempt to extract a pound of flesh, er, the vice-presidency, er, support for key initiatives from Obama.

KARE, via WCCO-AM, reports that Clinton superdelegate Walter Mondale endorsed Obama this morning. 

Other local Clintonians were “grieving,” writes the Strib’s Richard Meryhew and Curt Brown. He finds yet another feminist who wants to make a “statement” by writing in Clinton’s name and helping elect McCain — one wonders if this is like finding morels, or dandelions. Most supporters seem to get it; Paul Maccabee, husband of ex-City Council member Paula Maccabee*, says his family members are “diehard Clinton zealots,” but “the choice between Obama and McCain is outrageously clear.” (Note: original piece incorrectly attributed the quote to Paula Maccabee.)

Pawlenty’s withering glance: The Strib quotes the governor belittling Obama’s resume as “a professor of some type and a community organizer.” MPR’s Tom Scheck says Pawlenty noted, “Those are not normally the credentials you would associate that would next lead you to be the leader of the free world.” The Minnesota Daily adds this gubernatorial knife-twist: “Being able to read in an eloquent manner from a teleprompter is not a prerequisite to being a president of the United States.”

Conservative blogger Scott Johnson of Powerline writes that Obama “commands respect” for last night’s speech, but still delivers rhetorical shivs throughout.

What about the other guy? Only the PiPress gives John McCain front-page play; “McCain on offensive: GOP nominee calls Obama out-of-touch liberal.” The Strib notes McCain leads Obama 46-45 in a Gallup poll released Tuesday.


Related content

Evolution of a candidate
Analysis by G.R. Anderson Jr.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday in St. Paul, like much of his campaign, had an authoritative and historical ring to it. The candidate changed and survived in the six months since Iowa.

Clinton supporters wowed with warm reception at Obama rally
By Doug Grow
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sad but resigned, key supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton joined the thousands on hand to celebrate Sen. Barack Obama’s historic night. They came away impressed with the outreach and kindness Obama and his backers offered. For many, the healing process had begun.

Emotions and the Obama-Clinton contest
By Eric Black
Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Primary night speeches:
Sen. Obama
Sen. Clinton
Sen. McCain

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Ann Spencer on 06/04/2008 - 10:55 am.

    John Dickerson’s Slate piece incorrectly stated that the Xcel Energy Center is in Minneapolis—an error sure to be repeated ad nauseum before and during the Republican Convention. It amazes me that he could be in attendance at the rally and not realize what city he was in.

  2. Submitted by Mordecai Specktor on 06/04/2008 - 05:50 pm.

    On WCCO’s Monday night 10 pm newscast, Don Shelby announced that the station would broadcast Obama’s speech live.
    They had no live coverage.
    The only local live coverage was on KSTP, which cut to ABC coverage and carried the speech, until Obama started talking about McCain, then they cut away to the commentators.
    Nothing live on 9 or KARE-11 either.

  3. Submitted by William Levin on 06/04/2008 - 02:32 pm.

    At least the candidate said the name of the city correctly.

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