Obama’s Mile High Salute?

It is a testament to the optimism of the Obama campaign -- ignoring the fundraising woes of the Denver host committee and staring squarely at the state’s electorate that’s only gone Democratic three times in the past sixty years of presidential races -- that rumblings surfaced Thursday of moving Obama’s acceptance speech on the final night of the convention from the Pepsi Center to Invesco Field.

It would be a logistical, technical and security nightmare to change venues at such (comparatively) short notice, now some fifty days out, and as various bemused media outlets have itemized, the litany of potential snags is a mile high (weather, crowd control, transportation of delegates, ticketing).

But the potential payoff of such a stunt—an enormous, rabid crowd in a critical swing state with shots of a sunset over the Rockies—may be too big to ignore for a campaign that has perpetually set its sights on the political stratosphere.

The move isn’t entirely without precedent. In 1960, JFK moved his speech from the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena to the Memorial Coliseum, the 90,000-seat monstrosity variously home to the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, LA Rams, Dodgers, USC Trojans, UCLA Bruins and every TV commercial requiring a stadium.

As a graduate of USC, I don’t mind saying that JFK’s move was an easier and choosier one. The Sports Arena is and has always been a loathsome place, full of dank recesses, sickening lighting and putrid, technicolored chairs that belie LA’s reputation for glitz and glamour. The background of the Coliseum, with its vaulted archways and lit Olympic torch, fit the bill for the Camelot ticket far better than rats and rainbow-nasty seats. No doubt the ease of the switch, understanding that Sports Arena and Coliseum are a two-minute walk apart, separated by a single street and served by the same parking lots, played a big part in the decision.

Denver in ’08 is a different story. The Pepsi Center—thankfully sans rats—and parking areas surrounding the arena have already been planned to the square foot for the news hordes descending upon the city. Invesco is close, but it isn’t that close, and few if any media outlets would be keen to build another set of staging areas and retrofitted skyboxes to cover what is the single most important event of the convention.

But for a campaign that’s showed its willingness to take a short-term hit for a long-term reward, including Obama’s recent decision to forego general election public financing that opened him up to flip-flop/conventional politics attacks but allows vast sums to be raised before November, this kind of grand, utterly improbable display of presentational might on the much-publicized 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is just the kind of knockout blow his faithful would love to see dull the start of the GOP rally in St. Paul the next week.

Such a plan is indeed a testament to the optimism of the Obama campaign, but it is also a sign of its ruthlessness, hoping to not only snare a huge post-convention bounce, but preemptively deny Republicans any lift of their own. -- Joe Horton

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun

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