Cory Booker came to West Virginia University to give a talk at the Festival of Ideas, an annual series that brings in interesting people to talk about current events and provocative subjects. I hadn't been to one for a few years, but I thought that I would go to see what all the hype was about. Follow me below the fold to get my report...
Other people had the same idea. This was the biggest crowd I have seen on campus that didn't involve sports, music, or beer. I didn't count the seats but there must have been close to 1000 people. I haven't ever seen any political gathering that size in Morgantown. A big turnout for one of our Democratic events is 100.
Morgantown is a college town and mostly Democratic, but Romney beat Obama here. This definitely isn't a home field crowd for a black big-city mayor. It didn't matter.
He gave a speech that lasted about an hour and then took questions for an hour. He even stuck around afterwards to talk to students, but it was past my bedtime. It was the most amazing performance I have ever seen. It was Bill Clinton quality: he would recite facts, quote from a variety of sources, and then rip your heart out with a story. All this without notes or a teleprompter, wandering around the stage interacting with his audience. And we were his audience- he had us eating out of his hand.
His themes were standard moderate Democratic mantra: coming together as a community, helping those less fortunate help themselves, economic development, fiscal responsibility, and tolerance. He name checked Bloomberg, Christie, Frist, and a local right-wing think tank to suggest he could work with the Republicans. I have heard similar talk from our WV Blue Dogs and it leaves me cold. Why did this work for him?
My mother (in her 80s) remarked as we left that he had her vote. He had mine too. It seemed at the time that on every issue that he brought up I was in complete agreement with him. I may change my mind in the morning after the rush fades and I start to think about the reality of what he said and has done. But for now all I can say is: This guy is good!