Barack Obama won Tuesday’s Chesapeake Primary because he presents a choice voters seldom face – someone who inspires confidence and yes, the ol’ hackneyed hope, when both are scarce commodities.

He won because voters like me slipped their plastic cards in the Diebold machine’s mouth and, despite loose plans to do otherwise, pressed a hot fingertip against the “button” lettered “Barack Obama.”

I was surprised to see all the Dem candis on the ballot and almost cast my vote for Chris Dodd, who impressed me with his Senate filibuster.

Then I saw Dennis Kucinich’s name and a little voice that pities underdogs (like the New York Giants!) almost impelled there. For a nanosecond, Hillary called to me.

In the end I voted for Barack, EVEN THOUGH HE TOWED MY CAR MONDAY!!!!! (OK, Barack didn’t tow it, but — see below.)

NB: This is neither a pitch for a candidate, nor an endorsement. I’m merely trying to explain to you (and me) the dynamics of my vote. I’m not sure I understand what happened to me in the booth.

It wasn’t his rally in Baltimore Monday that determined my choice. It was instantaneous, as the synapses flashed standing there in the elementary school gym.

I suspect others who were leaning toward Barack experienced something similar. Almost a collective unconscious moment. (Don’t get too carried away with that phrase, kids; it’s just a little Jung.)
Obama drew white male votes of all ages, white female votes of all ages, and of course, his expected black and Latino votes. He took Washington, DC, three to one, Maryland and Virginia almost two to one.

I hate to use the word “charisma.” It’s overused and nebulous. There is more to Obama than charisma, though. Part I of Operation Dem Rallies begins below:

Barack Obama won the Chesapeake primary handily Tuesday. But he may have lost some votes the day before when Baltimore towed several dozen vehicles (mine among them!) during his Bawlmore shindig.

If you were a criminal in Charm City, you had free rein Monday between noon and 7 p.m. Every cop in town was at the 1st Mariner Arena where Obama rallied about 13,000 supporters. Police cars (and fire and rescue vehicles) clogged the streets. (Unfortunately, tow trucks still roamed free.)

Every parking garage within a five-mile radius was full. After 25 minutes of driving in circles, I snagged a parking place half-mile east of the arena and flagged a cab.

Fur-hatted and puffy-coated people shambled four abreast on the sidewalk toward the entrance. The queue stretched around the building twice.

I walked through the press entrance just before 4 p.m., the only wait while Secret Service agents checked my bag. Thank (your deity name here) for press passes.

At 5, people still streamed into the Arena’s nosebleed seats. The doors opened to the public at 2:45, but some had been shivering in the whipping wind since early morning. Temperatures were in the teens.

The media were issued cardboard passes festooned with different colored dots indicating where one was allowed to go. Try to step up on the scaffolding reserved for photographers without the right colored dot and you got busted. Well, chided and asked to step down.

In front of the photo scaffolding, about 600 folks stood on the cold concrete floor in a makeshift metal corral. Three or four hundred more sat upstage and in the wings. The arena seats 12,000, not including the floors and stage. You’d think all those humans would warm up the place, but not many were shedding coats.

There were black faces, red faces, yellow faces, brown faces, white faces. All ages, including a six-month-old named Aidan whose mom was changing him in the rest room.

Lots of toddlers and lots of college-age kids.
(Indeed, after my car was towed, I sat in the lobby of an office building with a clutch of Goucher coeds also waiting for a ride. Those who could vote were balloting Obama.)

I chatted up some reporters, spoke to a few folks on the floor (we were barricaded from them by portable steel fencing). Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon spoke; a 14-year-old boy played a lovely violin piece.

We waited some more.

“And now,” someone at the mike said suddenly, “it’s my pleasure to introduce to you…”

Collective breaths held, the collective conscious thought “Finally!”

“… Nicole –-.”

I didn’t catch her last name because 13,000 people groaned.

She introduced Elijah Cummings, who welcomed the crowd to “the 7th District of Maryland.”
Twenty minutes and a sermon later, out walked Barack to thunderous applause.

Nobody threw popcorn (as I did at the Beatles in 1964 when the place was called the Civic Center), but people stomped and clapped and screamed; parents hoisted their kids up onto their shoulders to see over the ubiquitous blue signs imprinted “CHANGE We Can Believe In”

Obama worked a small stage in the round raised just high enough for me to see him from the waist up when the signs were down. Sort of like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show…

Tune in tomorrow for Part II, same bat time, same bat channel….

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