Friday, January 29, 2010

Backstage at the big show

Today was the Scott Brown appearance in Chicopee and a story I desperately wanted to cover. Thanks to my friend Tony Cignoli I had about a much advance word on the event as anyone did.

Tony – a world-class political consultant – was called in to help with some of the arrangements of the event. Now most political events, whether they are press conference, campaign stops, town hall meetings or victory events go by pre-determined rules. By necessity most elected officials go by fairly strict schedules. Tony is a master at facilitating such events and making sure the press gets what it needs while sticking to the official’s schedule.

Generally at such events an official, especially someone such as a U.S. senator, will have a member of his or her staff at the event prior to its start to make sure everything is as it should be. Another convention is that at a non-press conference event, there is a press availability at which time the press has the newsmaker all to themselves.

Brown has no staff at this time and wasn’t interested in a press availability. He seemed content simply saying thank you to supporters. Tony had things running as smooth as they could have been.

The event was scheduled to take place at noon at the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee. Chicopee was won by Brown and the restaurant has allowed Brown to campaign among its diners there early in his campaign. I asked the restaurant’s owner how many people the large showroom could seat and it was 500 people. There were between 500 and 600 people in the room as new folks came in as other left.

People were lined up outside the restaurant at 11:20 when I got there. Tony had advised me to walk through the kitchen from the loading dock to get inside to set up before the noon start.

There was the usual local media, plus reporters from The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times and The Detroit Free Press. Brown’s election is a big national political story that has been hyped even more by silly elements as his career as a male model and the supposed revelation that Massachusetts is a Democratic state through and through, but "turned" Republican.

I don’t know how people can say that when so many of our governors for the past 25 years have been Republican. And the attitudes of so many residents from issues on bussing to same sex marriage don’t refect this huge liberal establishment as we allegedly have.

Brown, though, is a huge rock star in the political world, but what impressed me was that it doesn’t look like it’s hit him as yet. Sure, he’s been on Leno and people have been talking about Brown running for president in 2012, but I don’t think his head has been turned.

I say this because defying all political rules of thumb, Brown did this thank you event without a staff and with the roughest of plans. He drove himself there in his now famous pick-up truck. He had no assistants. After a friend of his who is a stand-up comic warmed up the crowd, he gave a short speech. Then said he wanted to me everyone in the room.

Most people in his position would have a staff of sorts at this point who would be keeping the event in line. Brown didn’t. Perhaps Brown is a true maverick. This event certainly seemed more genuine than any of the Palin gosh-golly-gee-I’m a-woman-of-the-people things I’ve seen on TV.

State Sen. Michael Knapik who worked with Brown told me he is a “regular guy” who is very open to reaching across aisle to get things done. Knapik, a fellow Republican, said he didn’t expect Brown to vote in “lockstep” with other Republican senators in D.C.

Brown just walked into the center of the room and was mobbed in a mosh pit of happy voters. Some had things for him to sign while others had their cameras ready. One person held up a sign reading “My sons are available.”

Brown was supposed to then go to WWLP TV22 for a brief stop, but couldn’t come due to schedule conflicts.

Despite the fact I’ve been burned before on expectations of politicians, I’m willing to give Brown a chance. His genuine touch at this event, no matter how chaotic it was for the press to cover, did seem refreshing.

© 2010 by Gordon M. Dobbs


Dave said...

Great piece, Mike. Your lede had em wondering where you going; nice job.

SRBissette said...

Great writeup, Mike. I tell you, there's a book in this path ahead!