In the afterglow of the Democratic National Convention, Obama supporters had an extra bounce in their step Friday, even if they were too late to make it past security gates to see the Obama and Biden couples on the grounds of Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke Museum.
“I’m fired up,” said local Didi Wallace, who was using flip-flops and wooden stakes to hold up a handmade sign a few blocks from the event that read, “Mitt Who?”
The longtime Democrat said she puts this year’s convention “at the top.”
“I was so depressed when Bush got reelected that I thought I really shouldn’t get emotionally connected, but, you know, once again I am emotionally connected,” Ms. Wallace said with a laugh. “I believe in choice. I believe in contraception…. I’m gay and I want to protect my marriage.”
Political conventions are largely an exercise in preaching to the choir – but candidates always hope that the choir will be motivated to go out and persuade other voters, especially in swing states like New Hampshire.
Only time will tell if the excitement will last, but on Friday it was palpable.
“I am just so ecstatic about health-care reform. Having a small child, you always have to worry about what will happen to them,” she said, looking at her son in the stroller. On election day, her large family, including a great-grandmother who has only voted once before, will all be voting for Obama, she says, and she’ll be waking up other people in the neighborhood to go vote, too.
Stephen Dooda, a diehard Democrat from Portsmouth, was relieved to see that Democrats “went after their base” during the convention, especially with Vice President Joe Biden’s speech. “They are finally responding to the fact that Democrats are Democrats; they’re not Republicans,” he said.
The momentum caught up at least one undecided voter here: Brad Wilson, a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire. “I made up my mind that I’m voting, 100 percent; I wasn’t really decided until today, but I like what [Obama] is saying,” he said after attending Friday’s event.
Many people said they were especially impressed with how well Michelle Obama portrayed the “human side” of the president.
“The first lady’s presentation was exceptionally penetrating, exciting, exhilarating,” said Julius Wayne Dudley, an Obama for America team leader in Boston’s largely African-American Roxbury neighborhood. “She knows the president in ways that most of us do not… He came off as being super intelligent, knowledgeable, the kind of person that Americans should trust in a turbulent world.”
Mr. Dudley, clad in Obama paraphernalia from head to waist, helped wrangle 16 tickets for grass-roots organizers to attend Friday’s event. They were up late to hear Obama’s convention speech and up early to carpool, and the women were especially excited to see Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden up close, he said.
As he sat outside the security checkpoints waiting for them, big cheers from the crowd of about 6,000 could be heard even though the event was blocks away.
The convention speeches from Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Deval Patrick impressed Dudley in their call for Democrats to show some backbone for the fight. “I’m so pleased to see [these two from] Massachusetts fire up the crowd like old Ted Kennedy used to do it,” he exclaimed.
Several people said that in the wake of the convention, they’re ready to do more than just cast a vote for Obama.
Joni Lacroix, a young woman from Hampton, N.H., campaigned for Obama in 2008. This time, she was particularly impressed with former President Bill Clinton’s speech on behalf of Obama. “I’ll probably pop in [to the local campaign headquarters] to see what else is going on, and maybe I can help,” she said.
Erin Heffron of Portsmouth said the crowd on Friday was “pumped” and she thought the conventions had a lot to do with it. Whenever Obama talks about repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” or other accomplishments, it reminds her “how much he actually did get done in the last four years – they are big important things that we just take for granted… We have to be reminded how big of a deal it was.”
The women speakers at the convention especially revved her up, Ms. Heffron said. “I always knew I was going to vote for Obama again, but it inspired me to talk to other people about it.”