Photo by Chris Kornelis.
One thing's for certain, Barack Obama had the better party.
The Key Arena was rockin, brimming over its 18,000-person capacity and they still had to turn thousands away. But not before the presidential hopeful glad-handed outside and gave a 10-minute impromptu speech that added to his tardiness, but also to his rock star status among those not willing to get in line at 9:00 this morning.
When he finally emerged (to a deafening welcome the Sonics can only dream of) Obama gave credit to Rep. Adam Smith for being with him early and working tirelessly on his behalf, credit to Mayor Greg Nickels for securing the ginormous venue, and credit to Gov. Chris Gregoire for choosing an opportune time to finally make up her mind. He actually called her a "bright, new star in national politics." (But I should note that the governor, though she announced her support this morning, still had time to bring along some "Gregoire for Governor" signs and pass them out to people in the front rows.)
As Clinton did the night before, Obama weaved some veiled references to his opponent into his standard stump:
"I'm not running because I think it's some how owed to me, or because it's my turn."
"We need a politics that's not based on PR and spin, but based on common sense and truthfulness."
However, in a new twist today, Obama also took time to refute some of Clinton's accusations directly, calling her out by name. He brought up the disagreement they had months ago about negotiating with all world leaders, both allies and enemies.
"I was called naive and irresponsible. I was told, no, you can't do that. I say, just watch me. . . . In the words of John F. Kennedy: We should never negotiate in fear or fear to negotiate."
And he had this for Clinton's lack-of-experience charge:
"They say I may give a good speech, have some good policy proposals but the truth is that I haven't been in Washington all that long. The say we need to season and stew him a little more, boil all the hope out him. Maybe he'll be ready in 20 years."
There was, of course, more than just sparring with the other Democratic contender. Obama covered the requisite ground on Iraq, the economy, education and climate change, and pitched a few specific promises: health insurance for all by the end of his first term; out of Iraq by 2009; raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.
Per the usual, he closed lofty:
"There is a moment in the life of every generation... If you want to make a mark on history we must join together and remake this country... This is our moment. This is our time."
Obama's expected to do well here, but as with other states that have had their say, a good party, a colossal rally, isn't enough. Obama's got to translate all the enthusiasm in the young faces there today into the adult action of giving up an hour on a Saturday to make it count for something.