It was billed as his last appearance in Los Angeles before voting starts, as was an event for Hillary Clinton taking place several miles at the nightclub Social Hollywood.
Obama didn’t mention Clinton, but was surely referring to her when he invoked his call for breaking the gridlock of Washington and campaigns that are “poll testing every position.” Even though politicians have talked of addressing health care and the environment for decades, “In year after year nothing changes.”
“The American people want something bigger, bolder,” he said.
Mocking the Clinton campaign’s recent reference to something he wrote in kindergarten, showing that he harbored presidential ambitions even back then, he said, “I am going to be releasing those papers now. There’s some scandalous stuff in there…I pulled on a girl’s pony tail once — and liked it.”
Obama didn’t fill the venue — orchestra was about 7/8 full and the mezzanine was empty (an organizer said they didn’t plan on selling that area) — but it was still a large turnout for a fund-raiser.
Tickets were $50 per person and $25 for students. That helped bring in a decidedly younger, less well heeled audience, with Goo Goo Dolls and Ne Yo providing entertainment. Warm up speeches came from Kal Penn, Nick Cannon, Eric Garcetti, Steve Westly, Scott Smith and Giselle Fernandez, who said that as a journalist “in a billion years I never thought I would be standing here doing this.” One of the oldest persons in the room was actor James Whitmore, 86, who compared Obama to some of the presidents he’s played, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt.
“I hope you guys weren’t expecting Oprah,” the campaign’s California field director, Buffy Wicks, joked to the audience. As was done in South Carolina on Sunday, members of the audience were each given cards with four phone numbers and were instructed to call them on their cell phones, telling them about Obama. A person near me dutifully participated in this phone bank, and said that he got an expression of interest in Obama, but the woman he spoke to was still uncommitted.
After he spoke, I got a very brief chance to ask Obama whether Winfrey would be back out on the trail for him again, but his answer was a little vague. “We’ll find out,” he said. He then continued down a line of people anxious to shake his hand.
Obama is scheduled to meet with Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton on Tuesday morning.
His campaign, meanwhile, sent out an e-mail summarizing the help that Oprah brought to building up the campaign organization. In South Carolina, for instance, 68% of those who signed up to attend the rally there had never communicated with the campaign before. So at the very least, the campaign says, she’s drawn people in to hear Obama in person, in a complete speech.
The irony is that CNN on Saturday aired Winfrey’s speech, but then cut off Obama before his was over.