Election ’08 (Canto 2)

Home Archived Opinion Election ’08 (Canto 2)

By Michael Rutschky

Published on January 8, 2008

It’s 10 o’clock at night and I am sitting on the floor in my roommate’s bedroom. I feel like I’ve crossed over a police line and snuck into a crime scene.  Rather than cleaning, she’s given up on it altogether and moved onto the couch in the living room.  Even Rudolph W. Giuliani, dauntless as he is during perilous times, wouldn’t dare to brave such a disaster. 

I just need somewhere to creep off to while I slam back a tall can of Red Bull and finish another election column.  With the Florida primary only days away, Pensacola is on fire with political activity.  I’m getting more information than a bi-weekly column can handle, so I’m publishing this online to keep the info fresh, as well as to clear my desk, so to speak.

On Jan. 16, 2008, I spent the evening at downtown Pensacola’s Fish House (which is neither a fish, nor a house) trying to get close to Giuliani.  I arrived unnecessarily early, which gave me time to get a feel for the crowd and scope out the location.

Before the venue opened, the attendees of the rally were cordoned off into a shabby outdoor tent/pavilion that gave us only enough shelter from the chill to make it a joke for us to be standing underneath it at all. 

There I waited, listening to all the schmoozing in the air.  People with blazers and dock shoes held up glasses of wine and connected to each other with stories about their college fraternities.

I looked out at the yachts bobbing up in down in the black water to the tune of a cute Bob Marley love song that was played out a long time before these yuppies got a hold of it.  Would this crowd have been so receptive if the radio was playing one of the political songs that made up the majority of Marley’s catalogue?

Inside the tiny venue people were being crushed together as much as possible to accommodate a crowd that was too big for the room.  I took a deep breath, dug out my Press Pass, and started moshing my way through the crowd to what I thought might be the Press Area, a slightly cleared spot directly across from the makeshift stage.  Once I got there I realized that there was no Press Area, and the whole thing was just a maddening fuster cluck. 

Next to where I stood was a light fixture aimed at the stage that was placed inside a trapezoid of masking tape on the ground.  If I ever accidentally stepped within the boundaries of that magical masking tape, and I did quite a bit, the edgy, paranoid goon that was entrusted with guarding the thing would growl the very unsettling phrase “stay out of the box, Mike.” 

I’d look up at him but his eyes weren’t on me, they were making mad dashes around the room, sizing everyone up.  The man was liable to lose his mind completely at any second.

From the corner of my eye, past the gargoyle standing next to me, I could see blue Ron Paul signs showing through the blackness outside.  The signs floated their way up to the window behind me where they were slapped up in place for all to see.

A grassroots movement supporting GOP underdog Ron Paul has been growing in Pensacola since the beginning of the election season.  Guerilla advertisements are popping up on the telephone poles of major blocks around the city, with a large concentration right outside the perimeter of PJC. 

Several days prior to the Giuliani rally I was given an opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the local Ron Paul underground.  Regardless of what I may think about the candidate, the passion and the tenacity of this group is astounding.

During the meeting they discussed ways to not only get Ron Paul’s name out there, but ways to help people overlook the stigma that Paul seems to bare in the minds of most Republicans.  Many of the reasons for this stigma are probably the same reasons for why the candidate has awakened the political spirit in so many disenfranchised voters.

“Many people in this election are voting based on sexual, ethnic, or religious preference,” said Adam Fannin, the young man at the middle of the table rallying troops that could be 10 or 20 years older than him. “Ron Paul doesn’t sell himself on these things.”

In his debate appearances Ron Paul appears to be an honest man that looks like he’s pulling his hair out having to explain to people in his own party over and over again that the government has way more power than it should. 

I’ve been there; feeling like you’re taking crazy pills because you’re saying something that makes total sense and no one seems to get it.  That’s one thing right off the bat that I can identify with Ron Paul on, putting him a step ahead of all of the other candidates, who look to me like a bunch of greedy smiling freaks. 

Personally I like Mike Gravel better, and wish he was making as much of a splash among young democrats as Paul is making among young republicans, but I think that may have to do with a certain bit of novelty from people not expecting a republican candidate to be so. well, radical.  Everyone expects it from the democrats.

Unfortunately for Fannin and his crew, Ron Paul hasn’t been doing great at the polls.  While democratic frontrunners are doing well by selling the idea of change, too much change to the status quo may still be too scary for mainstream America to handle.  Paul’s message may be too drastic of a change in too short of a time span for the majority of Americans to take. 

However, Paul’s not at the very back of the line.  In the Michigan primary a few days ago Rudy Giuliani once again finished behind Paul.  The buzz is that Giuliani has spent all his money without winning a single damn primary yet, meaning that if he doesn’t win here in Florida he’s as good as gone. 

That’s why when Rudy took the stage at the Fish House, the walls were covered with signs that read “Florida is Rudy Country.”  You’d better hope so, Bubba.

He certainly seemed a lot more down-to-business than the laid back, lispy cherub we’re used to from watching SNL.  He was probably sore from kicking himself for holding his rally in a cramped, elitist venue downtown on a night that was as cold as Hades while John McCain will be inside a college gymnasium on the 22nd targeting hundreds of first-time voters. 

If not, he should be sore by tonight.  His speech was nothing special; a re-iteration of his major points on the war, health care, the environment, and taxes.  Nothing more.  Really if it weren’t for his notion that since he was there when the towers fell then he should be the rightful heir to the War on Terror, I don’t think his campaign would have ever had much to go on in the first place.

Pensacola, Florida, final resting place of Rudolph W. Giuliani (love that middle initial).

For pictures and video from the Rudy Rally, check out www.vulturesonacarousel.com!