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Barack and Roll in Seattle and at the Washington State Caucuses

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We aren't used to this here in Washington State.

Oh sure, we've got Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boeing — and we gave the world the rock and roll phenomenon known as grunge. But for all of Seattle's rock star luster and geek chic, it gets a little lonely up in our corner of America sometimes when it comes to politics. That all changed this weekend.

With the Democratic race for delegates in particular about as close as it gets, the state party caucuses this weekend got the attention of all three of the remaining major candidates for president. Hillary Clinton arrived in town on Thursday for rallys in Seattle and Tacoma and a town hall meeting in Spokane. John McCain spoke before a crowd of supporters at Seattle's downtown Westin Hotel on Friday night.

But not a one of them received the rock star sort of reception that Barack Obama did here. So I guess it's now official. Obamamania has claimed the Pacific Northwest. In Seattle, Clinton's appearance drew a crowd of about 5,000 supporters, while McCain drew about 500 at the Westin.

Obama by contrast, packed 18,000 screaming fans — and that is literally the most accurate description I can muster — into Seattle's Key Arena on Friday. Another 3,000 had to be turned away, although Obama also addressed that group outside with a megaphone on his way into the building.

For about four hours on a windy Seattle afternoon (Obama's speech was delivered two hours late), it was sheer bedlam in Seattle's downtown Queen Anne neighborhood. The event stopped traffic for hours, and drew the sort of crowd normally reserved for touring rock bands like U2, and that the hometown NBA team the Supersonics hasn't seen in years.

Inside the Key, the audience not only behaved like the sort of frenzied crowd you'd see at a rock concert — it also looked a lot like one. Although the crowd makeup was a fairly broad mix of ethnicities, there was no mistaking the age factor here. The Obama supporters who jammed the Key were overwhelmingly young. They were also really loud, roaring their approval when Washington State governor Christine Gregoire first announced her endorsement for Obama, and then introduced the man himself. The reception was pure rock star all the way.

At Saturday's Democratic precinct caucuses — at least the one I attended — the Obama presence was no less overwhelming. Obama signs, buttons, and banners were everywhere in the packed high school auditorium. In my precinct, the numbers also reflected this. Of the 66 of us there, 45 were Obama supporters to Hillary Clinton's 15, while 5 were uncommitted on the first ballot. By the time of the second ballot, both Hillary and Obama picked up 2 each of the uncommitteds.

This seems to reflect the statewide trend in Washington, where as I write this Obama is winning the state by a two to one margin over Clinton. In our precinct, we are sending four Obama delegates (including myself) and two Clinton delegates to the District caucus in April.

The whole caucus system can itself be a little chaotic. With the huge turnout on Saturday, our own meeting was a fairly crazy affair with most of us flying by the skin of our teeth. Our group often found itself competing for volume with the various other precincts crowded into the high school auditorium. For at least the first several minutes, there was also the little problem that none of us really knew what we were doing.

The fact that support was divided between just two candidates however made the speeches, debates and such go much easier.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Donald Gibson

    Great article.

    Because of our little Primary fiasco (there’s always a voting fiasco here), Florida misses out on seeing the Democratic candidates (specifically Obama) during this Primary season.

    Steve & Edie still pump up our massive senior citizen population though.

    - Donald

  • Lee Richards

    Talk about getting attention, here in Virginia you can’t go a hour without a phone call or a candidate showing up.
    Today alone I’ve gotten recorded calls from Clinton(Hillary), Clinton(Bill) & Obama.
    McCain and Huckabee called yesterday, and there were other calls I didn’t listen to.
    Clinton(H) was in town today, Clinton(B.) will be here tomorrow and Obama also, I think.
    Virginia may go red in November as usual(but then again, maybe not. It depends on who the Democrats run but both of them have more support here then the Democrats usually muster in presidential elections.) But in February we have what they all want and think they can win-delegates.

  • Douglas Mays

    h yeah. It was bitch just to find parking in the Queen Anne neighborhood last Saturday….It was a rock n roll type deal.

    Hillary’s total Washington audience was probably just as big as Obama’s, but she spread the numbers around the state.

    do you remember back when Bill was running and he spoke at the Market? That was rock n roll also. Wasn’t that like a 20,000 audience deal?

    hhhmmm…what to think of it all?

    Oh, besides Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks don’t forget

    Rock on!

  • Glen Boyd

    The latest deal I’m hearing now is about people fainting at Obama’s rallies. Shades of Beatlemania…


  • Steve

    This is the song that Obama reminds me of.

    Barack Obama, Superstar.

    Who are you, what kind of change are you are talking about?

    Barack Obama, Superstar,

    Who are you, what kind of change are you are talking about?

    Barack Obama, Superstar

    Who are you, what kind of change are you talking about?

    Adoph Hitler could really rally those masses, and Olde Joe Stalin could make them walk barefoot through broken glasses, And Ho Chin Minn, he could bring the crowd in, and that Po Pot he know how his words could make them hot…

    Now do you believe?

    Now Marshall Applewhite made them think that they were going to go to Heaven on a comet, and David Koresh he sent his faithful on a path to Armageddon. And of course we all know about olde Jim Jones. His people did what he told em and that Kool-aid got overflowin…

    Now do you believe? (the mesmerized crowd shouts back Yes we Believe) Now do you believe?(louder) Yes, we believe! Hallelujah now get that sister some water (the front row of women then faints).

    Barack Obama, Superstar,

    Who are you, what kind of change are you are talking about?

    Barack Obama, Superstar

    Who are you, what kind of change are you talking about?

    Now do you see yourself as as Che’s Second comin… Or maybe you set yourself up on a path even higher. Perhaps you do see yourself as the new Messiah, start a new religion with you as its idol.

    Do you believe?

    Cults of personalities well they very rarely end well and with yours it could set the earth a trembling… For when you come unglued as all cult leaders in the end do, you could push that nuclear button and set the earth afire..

    Barack Obama, Superstar,

    Who are you, what kind of change are you are talking about?

    Barack Obama, Superstar!

    Who are you, what kind of change are you talking about?

    Barack Obama, Superstar!

    Turing America into one big Manson Family

    Barack Obama, Superstar!

    Turning America into one big Manson Family

  • Alessandro Machi

    The polls in Washington just prior to the Washington Caucus showed the two candidates very close, Hillary Clinton may even have been leading.

    But caucuses seem to bring out the youth more than the older vote. Primaries seem a more accurate way to gauge the popularity of a candidate, especially since that is how it is done in the fall.

    Caucus Cheating
    Fair Reflection