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Given my newfound preference for Barack Obama in Missouri’s Feb. 5th primary, I thought it only fitting that I go cover his speech in the Edwards Jones Dome Friday night. Luckily for me, the Obama campaign reached out to local bloggers late last week, and I got credentialed as press. I say luckily for me, because over 20,000 people packed the floor of the Dome, and I got to stay free of the crush of people by camping out in the roomy press section. That’s right, 20,000 people showed up, even with slushy roads, and Mardi Gras festivities and a Blues game in town. It made for an interesting mix on the Metrolink to and from the Dome, that’s for sure.

I’ve got to head to Springfield for the day, so I’ll post some quick thoughts below the flip. I’ll have a fuller description later tonight.  

  • As the crowd was building, a campaign staffer directed the crowd to get involved by pulling out their cell phones and texting “MO” to a number. I’m not sure if this just got them signed up as a volunteer or directed them to call a number, a la the giant Oprah phone banks in Iowa and South Carolina. Either way, it’s a smart way to grab people while you’ve got their attention.
  • I wasn’t the only John Edwards fan in attendance. I ran into two of my best volunteers, and they in turn had seen a couple more. In the VIP section, I noticed some labor people who I last saw standing on the stage behind Edwards at the Carpenters Hall. Also, Obama thanked Edwards in his speech for talking about the issues that mattered to people and said that John would continue to have an important voice in the Democratic Party. A big cheer went out from the crowd on that point.
  • I hadn’t listened to a full speech by Obama before, but he also included some of Edwards’ focus on poverty. At one point he exclaimed, “You should not be poor if you’re working in America!”
  • From coverage of Obama, you get the sense that he only deals in airy slogans and abstractions, but he gave plenty of policy details and personal stories in his speech last night. He talked about closing Guantanamo and restoring habeas corpus (to the biggest applause of the night short of the last swell of his speech,) and he had a lot of specifics in his domestic agenda, like a $4000 tuition credit for every college student who commits to community service, tax breaks for Americans who make under $75,000/year and a minimum wage increase indexed to inflation.

Gotta run. I’ll have more after the Super Bowl tonight.