Obama takes the Hill: A view from inside

ObamaearlBy Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon. Earl co-chairs the Oregon Obama campaign.

This morning, in the midst of a procedural argument with the Republicans, I had to have House Security clear a path through an unexpected sea of reporters so I could get back to the House floor. The reason was immediately apparent: members of the media had their noses pressed against windows in the door gazing at Barack Obama as he was slowly moving down the aisle, doing what he does best: being Barack!

I must confess to a little satisfaction because I had been lobbying the national campaign to have Barack drop by while the House was in session. A number of members are now ready to declare their support. My sense is that at least 95 percent of the super delegates know exactly who they are going to vote for, and most will support Barack. Many were looking for an opportunity to solidify in their own mind or perhaps express to him where they are and where they are going.

Nothing illustrated the momentum, the optimism, and the power of the Obama campaign more than the reaction Senator Obama received on the floor. It was not necessarily a victory lap, but certainly there was a sense that here was a campaign at the top of its game as the end of the nominating process was approaching. Here was the guy to change the game in D.C. Most were feeling comfortable, if not excited, about the prospect of Obama leading the Democratic ticket in the fall. People clogged the aisles to move towards him. He had a wave for one… a hug for another… listening attentively… and informal banter. It was a rock star reaction to a regular guy.

The press gallery, usually vacant since the media usually follow floor procedures on CSPAN monitors, suddenly filled with reporters trying to get a first hand look at the spectacle “off camera.” Student pages materialized from all over the Capitol to crowd the back of the chamber to look at and, maybe if they were lucky, meet Obama. I smiled as he stopped to pose for pictures with dozens of these shining, eager, young faces. I’m confident that given a secret ballot, Barack would win the page vote in a landslide.

The setting was the middle of another procedural battle, with the chamber filled with members and super delegates. I watched Clinton supporters carefully. Until now, Senator Clinton claimed the majority of House “super delegates,” a situation that has changed as Senator Obama’s campaign surges. A few that didn’t quite know how to respond. Then I noticed even some of the Clinton supporters gravitating towards Obama to shake his hand. All eyes in the chamber were drawn to the dynamic.

I feel a special satisfaction about my work co-chairing the Obama campaign in Oregon, because our state is likely to provide the punctuation point on May 20. As our ballots are counted, and extra delegates are won, we will probably see the total number of delegates hit the magic mark of 2025. I am more convinced than ever that the campaign will be over in May. The body language of both Obama supporters and Clinton delegates seemed reflect that conclusion during his trip to the House floor.

As Obama prepared to leave, it was interesting to note the number of senior Republicans who came down the center of the aisle as he approached the well of the House. Republicans like David Dreier and Jerry Lewis from California wanted to shake his hand and say a word. He even had a kiss for Judy Biggert from Illinois, a hug from Ray LaHood. There were more waves and smiles as we moved towards yet another “vote reconsideration,” as the Republicans attempted to throw some sand in the gears of Barney Frank’s housing package.

As the voting started again, Sam Farr, a Congressman from California said to me under his breath, “I wonder how many super delegates would like to reconsider their votes.” Sam and I shared a smile as the Barack Obama moved out of the chamber.

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    Earl, thanks for sharing. I heard a report of this earlier, and it sounds like an amazing scene. This is how Ben Smith of Politico described it:

    Politico's Amie Parnes e-mails from Obama's visit to the House floor, where he was mobbed instantly. New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, in theory a Clinton superdelegate, asked him to autograph the cover of today's New York Daily News, with the headling "It's His Party." Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Clinton supporter from Florida, gave him a big hug. Even Republicans were star-struck. Ileana Ros Lehtinen of Florida crossed the aisle to say hello and brought three children — in town for a school safety patrol trip — with her. Obama, meanwhile, bowed to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

    You should take a bow, too. Thanks for your hard work here in Oregon; it should be paying off in spades in 12 days.

  • Michael Hanna (unverified)

    Earl, fun post, thank you. What a long trip this has been, and how beautiful for Oregon to be here right near the finish line of the Obama campaign. It has been an intense campaign, and there were many times when I was worried about what all the negativity was going to do to the Democratic party and our chances in November. But as this primary race comes to closure, I feel better about the outcome than I did a few weeks or months ago. You post is a great illustration that we will be united going into November, and at the end of it all, this hard fought race only made us all tougher and stronger.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Thanks, Earl!

    Tomorrow Barack is in Albany. And Peter DeFazio had endorsed him just this evening( see the O). I'm wondering if he will be there to campaign with him also.

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    Thanks Earl, very interesting.

    Please fight as hard as you can to defeat the outrageous plan of the House Democratic leadership on the war supplemental to remove war funding as an issue until well into 2009.

    I hope that Obama's bow to Steny Hoyer is not symbolic of how he will approach the issues of war and civil liberties on which Hoyer has been selling us out. Probably all light-hearted, but my heart is heavy over what Hoyer & Pelosi have cooked up.

  • Colin Hicks (unverified)

    Thanks for the inside account from today...and thank you for your work on the campaign!

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    As our ballots are counted, and extra delegates are won, we will probably see the total number of delegates hit the magic mark of 2025.

    Uh... no we won't. Obama will not hit 2025 on May 20th, unless a unprecedentedly large block of undeclared SDs (somewhere in the neighborhood of 130) of the undeclared SDs announce support for Obama for that to happen by May 20th. Right now Obama needs 172 to get to 2024.5 delegates (which is the current number to clinch the nomination outright).

    West Virginia, Kentucky and Oregon combined only have 131 pledged delegates even on the table to be won by the election results. For Obama to get to 2024.5 on the 20th that would mean he would have to win every single pledged delegate in all three states and on top of that have 41 SDs declare between now and May 20th. And that is absolutely NOT going to happen as Clinton will win more delegates in West Virginia and Kentucky.

    What Obama will secure, is a mathematical lock that prevents Clinton any possibility of getting more pledged delegates than Obama, not that Obama will get enough to get the nomination outright. RIght now there is a 164 pledged delegate margin between Obama and Clinton with 217 remaining. What Obama has a lock on after Oregon tallies up, will be enough of those 217 to make it impossible for Clinton to overtake him in pledged delegates.

    Don't get me wrong, the writing is on the wall, Obama will be the nominee (an outcome which I am more than pleased with), but let's not push things that are not factually accurate please.

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    Congressman, thanks for posting this here and your tireless work on behalf of Oregon's campaign. It is deeply appreciated. It's pretty amazing what the Oregon grassroots effort has accomplished in just the past few months.

    The 30,000 new Democrats registered last month will help redraw our state's electoral map this fall and for years to come. Thanks for helping leading the charge!

  • Matthew Sutton (unverified)

    Fabulous account Congressman!! And thank you so much for all your work for Barack in Oregon!!

  • Alberto Borges (unverified)

    Hillary for president. In my opinion Obama does not have enough experience to be our president.

    Obama is only blah,blah


  • Alberto Borges (unverified)

    Oregon is needing Hillary as a President

    Hillary 2009 President.

    Alberto Borges

  • Alberto Borges (unverified)

    Hillary will be our next president.

    Latinos for Hillary.

    Alberto Borges.

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    Al, we heard ya the first time.

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    "For Obama to get to 2024.5 on the 20th that would mean he would have to win every single pledged delegate in all three states and on top of that have 41 SDs declare between now and May 20th. And that is absolutely NOT going to happen as Clinton will win more delegates in West Virginia and Kentucky."

    I think he's likely to earn or flip at least 60 between now and then. These things will happen in a wave. The writing is on the wall.

  • Chuck_the_Cheez (unverified)

    Obama is just one more example of America's overwhelming interest in celebrity power - as Earl's post attests. Having Barack as President (and I guess one can only hope or we'll be stuck in Iraq till Doomsday) will be only marginally better than having Britney or Amy Winehouse in there.

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    Posted by: torridjoe | May 9, 2008 8:43:03 AM I think he's likely to earn or flip at least 60 between now and then. These things will happen in a wave. The writing is on the wall.

    That translate into around 6 SDs a day, and we haven't seen those numbers yet and I don't see that happening and West Virginia and Kentucky Oregon will not give 111 delegates to Obama along with your prediction of 60 or so SDs to put him over 2025 on May 20th.

  • Lani (unverified)

    A lot of Super Delegates like Pelosi have pledged to support the candidate who wins the majority of the elected delegates. On May 20th, that person will be Obama.

    "It'll be over early June," --Clinton Campaign Chair Terry McAuliffe said yesterday.

    Other high level campaign staffers are shopping around books.

  • Fair and Balanced (unverified)

    The Superdelegate History Tracker on DCW (Democratic Campaign Watch) has a section on the "Pelosi Club". These are folks who have committed to support the pledged delegate leader. Assuming Obama is the one, DCW lists a net gain of eight superDs from the Pelosi Club. Clinton's current lead per that site is down to 5.5 not counting the Pelosi Club, so for all intents and purposes Obama is now ahead among the supers as well.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Alberto, gee, that old "experience" canard.

    Hillary Clinton: 7 years as a US senator. Barack Obama: 10+ years as an Illinoios state legislator and 2 years as a US senator. Abrahan Lincoln: 4 years as an Illinois legislator and 2 years in the US House of Representatives before he became president. That makes Lincoln less qualified to be president than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

    Oh, but wait, there's Hillary's other 28 years of experience...mostly as a lawyer, some of it providing policy input, but none of it in elected office.

    You'd better go with McCain if you want "experience", Mr. Borges. He's been a US senator for a long time, and he was enjoying himself in a Vietnamese POW camp while Hillary Clinton was in law school.

  • kat (unverified)

    And so the comments start heading downhill.. but I am still UP for Obama!!

  • sandra (unverified)

    lets remember Lincoln lived in a time when america was a rural country-before the industrial revolution took hold-using that as a yardstick-George Washington only had experience as a general and plantation owner. And who can forget George Bush, high likability factor, experienced as a govenor. And while we are talking about Lincoln-he thought America would have to send the slaves back to africa if we freed them-he did'nt think they could be assimilated into americas culture-and Abe was a lawyer most of his life-shouldn't we wait for Obama to actually accomplish something before we start comparing. And just for the record, fact check does not show Obama to be leading Hillary in terms of legislative accomplishment-but I know you have high hopes for him

  • Lani (unverified)

    If experience were the criteria, then the Democratic candidate would be Biden, Richardson, or one of the other candidates.

    The Obama volunteers in Oregon deserve congratulations and a really big party when our state puts Obama over the top in elected delegates and seals his place--and theirs-- in history.

    <h2>Volunteers have done a remarkable job with this election around the country for all the candidates and it's exciting that the Democrats will finally take back the White House.</h2>
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