Waldman: The View From the Cheap Seats

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Waldman, right, and a friend.
Waldman, right, and a friend.


It was dog-eat-dog on the floor of the Pepsi Center last night. With both Biden and President Clinton speaking, no one chose to stay behind knocking back cocktails at a watch party. The place was mobbed. I was late arriving on the floor, but rather then get into a wrestling match with the daughter of the son of a friend of a congressman or the husband of the sister of a state rep, I decided to head up to the cheap seats. I watched the speeches perched on my husband's lap, sitting next to the utterly delightful wife of Representative John Spratt, one of South Carolina's two Democratic congressmen and an early Obama supporter.

Months ago, my friend Margo Lion — the Tony Award–winning producer of Hairspray and Angels in America — and I were joking about the hats Republican women wear to their (decidedly monochromatic) conventions. Margo ended up commissioning a set of hats for us and for our friend Nicole Lamb-Hale, also a classmate of Barack's (and mine) from law school. We debuted them tonight when Barack became our official nominee. The stir caused by the hats was no small part of the reason for my delay in getting to my seat.

The speeches were out of this world. You've seen most of them on TV. Elsewhere on this Website you can read about Clinton's brilliant performance and Biden's touching eloquence, but suffice it to say that if the John Kerry who lambasted John McCain on the stage tonight had been anywhere in evidence four years ago, we would have been spared a hell of a lot of grief. As a friend said to me, "Who was that masked man?"

Tomorrow I will likely be in such a state of apoplectic Obama-adoration that I will be able to think and write about nothing else, so I'll take some time today to describe a few of the myriad convention-related events I've attended around the city. Each day starts out with a credential stampede and a California delegation breakfast. This morning both Barbara Boxer and John Kerry addressed us, Boxer in her usual good form, and Kerry (yes Kerry!) managing to electrify a group of people who otherwise were single-mindedly focused on raising their blood-caffeine levels sufficient to allow simple bodily functions like breathing.

Then I headed off to a briefing by the ever-unflappable David Plouffe and others about the state of the campaign. The discipline and intelligence of that man is mind-blowing. Everyone in the world is second-guessing him, telling him he's not going on the attack enough, or he's not paying sufficient attention to polls, or that he's not getting the message out to women, or to Hillary supporters, or to white-sheeted members of the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan or whatever, and yet he remains absolutely steadfast in his message, in his plan, and in his analysis. He's got his eye firmly fixed on undecided voters and turnout in his eighteen battleground states. He's watching the numbers, my favorite of which is the measure of enthusiasm in supporters of both candidates. 52 percent of Obama's supporters are wildly enthusiastic. Only 28 percent of McCain's can muster similar passion.

Other events of the day included a lunch reception honoring Marion Wright Edelman, hosted by Bill Richardson, Jennifer Lopez and L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. I think I can be forgiven for not picking up Viacom's rubber do-gooder bracelets. But the food was great, J.Lo was incredibly sweet, and Edelman was as inspiring as ever. (But would it have killed the woman to mention Obama by name?)

I meant to make it to the health-care-reform panel, to the reception thrown by Barbara Boxer's PAC, and to the one by the new progressive Israel lobbying group J-Street, but my feet were killing me so I had to change shoes. Aching "convention feet" are, by the way, endemic among the Democratic women. I've commiserated over blisters with women up and down the convention floor, be they senior Hillary fund-raisers, congresswomen, or lowly staffers. There is nary a Band-Aid–free YSL tribute pump in the joint.

Last evening we popped into a party thrown by the IMPACT film festival, considered and passed on the California Delegation Party, and declined to hustle for Kanye West tickets. Today, I plan to spend the day resting up for the evening's anticipated hysteria — that is, after the book party for Nancy Pelosi and Donna Brazile.