View From the Convention Floor in Charlotte
The Time Warner Cable Arena was standing-room only Wednesday night as delegates, Members of Congress and those lucky enough to gain passes overwhelmed the arena and found new ways to take in the spectacle that climaxed with President Bill Clinton’s riveting nominating speech.
Scrunched to one side of the tiered mess of cameras in the center of the arena, several dozen convention attendees pushed close to each other, some even wrapping their arms around each other, because a kind female security agent opted not to kick the group off the floor or tell them to “keep moving.”
The race to find a square of floor where a non-delegate could stand for even a moment became more and more desperate, the tension escalating from Sandra Fluke’s address and becoming nearly fevered through Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s speech before Bill Clinton was slated to take the stage.
To one side of the podium, just under the giant teleprompters, an unspoken agreement was struck between the female security agent and one of the podium staff: We’re going to let them stay.
So several dozen strangers got close, with one man putting his arm around a young lady in an effort to get them all into the invisible border between the podium and the row.
“Get close,” the hero security agent said. “Get to know each other well. When this is over we can all do a conga line out of here.”
“I want to buy her a present,” one college-aged convention goer whispered to her friend.
“She’s amazing,” her friend agreed.
The security agent did remind her group of now devoted fans: “Don’t think this is going to happened [Thursday] night.”
Sitting with the Iowa delegation was Sen. Tom Harkin, who was quietly and earnestly trying to watch the prime-time speeches.
When we tried to ask him a question, he asked if we’d mind waiting for the speaker to finish. When the program rolled straight into the next speaker, he shrugged and smiled apologetically.
“Sorry!” he said, gesturing to the stage.
Just then, another person came up to introduce themselves. Harkin once again explained that he would like to watch the speeches. And then another person. His seatmates burst into laughter when he had to graciously explain, yet again, that he would like to listen to the speeches.
Just then, a CNN camera man knelt down, positioning the camera 10 inches from the Harkin’s face while the Senator assumed a neutral, pleasant expression. Every 10 minutes for the rest of the evening, the cameraman would come to settle at Harkin’s feet like a persistent mosquito.
The camera would then move one row back from the Senator to get reaction shots from the rest of the delegation.
Rep. Shelley Berkley was sitting in the front with the Nevada delegation. Person after person stopped to compliment her hair.
“I’ve been trying to grow it out for two years,” she said with a laugh.
When we asked what she expected from Clinton speech, she said that there would be no better person to explain to Americans why they need to re-elect President Barack Obama.
Does she expected the gridlock in that has characterized the 112th Congress to ease in the 113th?
“Well, it has better,” she replied. “Americans want Congress to work.”
Facing the Nevada delegates, Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden sat together, standing to clap and sitting to listen.
In the section next to them were Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. John Kerry. Kerry said he expected great things from Clinton’s speech, though he looked tired, pale and overwhelmed by the scrum of people surrounding him.
Later, during the speeches, Kerry couldn’t stifle a yawn. Not being able to stifle one, another followed. Soon, the woman next to him started.
Standing in the aisle just in front of the podium was Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison being interviewed on film, while another security agent kept ushering people past the stand-up.
Sitting inches away, two delegates watched the serious faced Ellison while wearing hats festooned with stuffed animals.
Toward the end Warren’s speech, one staffer whispered to her friend: “I’m ready for this to be over, Bill is going to take forever.”