by Ted Manna
American Reporter Correspondent
January 31, 2008
CLASH OF COMMENTS AND PROTESTORS AT CLINTON, OBAMA RALLIES IN DENVER
DENVER, Feb. 1, 2008 -- At least four presidential campaigns of both partiers rolled into in Denver this week ahead of the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" primaries in 22 states, but it was the Democratic presidential contenders who drew the big crowds and duked it out Wednesday. If sheer numbers are any indication, Sen. Barack Obama - preceded by a buoyant and beautiful Caroline Kennedy - won the round handily. He is the overwhelming favorite to win the Colorado primary next Tuesday.
An overflow crowd of more than 15,000 Obama supporters showed up on a frigid and overcast morning at the University of Denver's 7,000-seat hockey arena, some waiting in line since before dawn for the Illinois senator's 11AM speech in lines that snaked all around the campus and back inside.
Some of the crowd had to settle for listening to the first of the self-professed "change" candidates in an adjoining gym, and still others were shunted to an outdoor lacrosse field.
By contrast, Sen Hillary Clinton's surrogate, former president Bill Clinton, drew merely 4,000 to the same venue later that night, albeit in a driving snowstorm that may have kept many voters home.
Granted, a cold front had already dumped about six inches of snow before his the 9PM Clinton rally, but maybe top billing should have gone to a surprise visitor, Clinton daughter Chelsea, who spoke Thursday morning to a standing-room only crowd at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Vitriolic rhetoric took a break Wednesday, but both campaigns took mild shots at each other. Maybe it was the calming presence of two former Presidents' daughters - the poised and confident Chelsea, and Caroline Kennedy - who made a low-key but dramatic surprise appearance at Obama's rally.
Pres. John F. Kennedy's daughter, who along with her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, endorsed Obama on Monday, said that while she has "stayed out of the political limelight, I have been active in education.
"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize someone with special abilities, someone who can restore the hope and inspiration that America felt when my father was President. Together we can do great things, but we need a President who will restore our civil rights and end the war. Barack Obama is the future of our party and our country," she said. Obama echoed her theme.
"We have built a movement of young and old; rich and poor; black and white; Latino, Asian and Native American," Obama reminded the crowd, which seemed to be a hearty mix of all of the above.
"That's how Democrats will win in November," Obama continued. "Not by nominating a candidate who will unite the other party against us, but by choosing one who can unite this country around a movement for change," he said, poerhaps intending a mild jibe at the former President's controversial remarks in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
"It's not experience versus change," Clinton countered later that night. "It is, who's got the experience to make change for you?' We've got to restore America's leadership. Hillary will send the world a very different message about America. She will say, 'We're back!'".
On Friday, the ranks of new cars at Denver's Freeway Ford were dwarfed by the ranks of supporters of Gov. Mitch Romney, who is also stumping in the sate and won the coveted endorsement of "blue dog" Democrat Dean Singleton's Denver Post on Frtiday. The campaign had said it expected about 200 at the rally, but more than 1,500 showed up for the second-place finisher in last Tuesday's Florida primary.
Over at the Colorado Convention Center, Rep. Ron Paul made an even more impressive showing as more than 3,000 cheering supporters packed a lightly advertised speech. Rep. Paul spoke with the American Reporter before the event for a story that will appear over the weekend. When he was asked by someone else about medical marijuana, however, which is legal in the state, Paul may have made news when he said he favors ending the costly War on Drugs, a signal failure of the past four Administrations, and legalizing marijuana. Rep. Paul told The American Reporter that his campaign was in strong enough shape financially to finish the long and costly primary run.
The Clinton campaign surrogate also had to contend with a disruption from a group of hecklers in the audience. The former President, looking dapper in a red tie and dark suit, had just begun top speak when a man near the front began shouting a demand to re-open the 9/11 investigation.
Members of We Are Change Colorado told the American Reporter today that they didn't target Clinton alone. Protestors were barred from the Obama event and said they contented themselves by passing out 3,000 flyers around Magness Arena on the University of Denver campus.
Clinton has encountered the group before, and asked "Adam," the most vocal of the group Wednesday night, "are you one of those it-was-an-inside-job guys?"
Rob Weiland, a spokesman for the We Are Change Colorado, claimed that the last time he confronted Clinton, the former president angrily sputtered, "How dare you!"
Admonishing the booing crowd to "let him talk," Clinton calmly chided Adam, who asked that his last name not be used. "We have heard from you, now you hear from me," Clinton said. "I let you rudely interrupt me by screaming at the top of your lungs. So we heard from you, now you go away."
In an interview with The American Reporter today, Weiland promised to continue confronting "corrupt politicians.
"Our facts are solid. We have science behind us. The government is lying to us. There is lots of evidence that the military-industrial complex knew about the attack on the Twin Towers beforehand," he said.
Weiland claimed his group's goal was not to attack Clinton but to make his message more visible. While other news organizations reported the exchange between Weiland and Clinton, none identified the group by name.
The American Reporter, however, reported last November on a similiar incident when We Are Change protestors tried to draw Rudy Giuliani into a 9/11 discussion, resulting in an almost "Don't tase me, bro" moment as one member was literally dragged out of the coffee house Giuliani was using as a meet-and-greet venue.
Now that most of the original candidates of both parties have left the race, there is a greater likelihood of the group showing up wherever rallies are planned. The 2008 Democratic National Convention is likely to draw many such Americans who are dissenters to prevailing beliefs, and convention organizers are working hard to be prepared for them.
AR Correspondent Ted Manna covers Colorado and the Intermountain region for The American Reporter. Huis son, Tony, 14, contributes photography.