Sunday, August 08, 2004

Von Kerry's Express

What happened:

A crowd of hundreds -- some estimated more than a thousand -- of
John Kerry supporters waited several hours Friday night on a train platform in Lawrence, hoping to hear a few words from the Democratic presidential nominee as he made his way across Kansas by train.

It didn't pan out.

...Kansas Democratic Party officials said the Kerry camp told them the
candidate's train would slow to a crawl at about 11:30 p.m. Friday when it
reached the Lawrence Amtrak station at 413 E. 7th.

The creeping train would give Kerry and running mate John Edwards "five to eight minutes" to address supporters, said Mark Simpson, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party.

But the train didn't stop, likely the result of Kerry's train leaving Kansas City, Mo., more than an hour behind schedule.

The train continued through the night to Lamar, Colo., where Kerry and
Edwards had a campaign stop slated for mid-morning Saturday.

All Friday evening, Kerry backers stood shoulder to shoulder on the train platform, talking about the candidate's own platform.

"Hope is on the way!" several people shouted, a double reference to one of Kerry's favorite campaign slogans and to the train carrying the candidate toward Lawrence.

But hours later, as Kerry's train rumbled away into the darkness, the crowd was blanketed with an awkward silence that eventually was broken by attempts at lightheartedness.

"Hope just left!" several people cracked.

How the national press covered it:

But Democratic supporters were left bewildered and confused as the
train chugged right on by them and kept going. The inadvertent snub was blamed on a late-night miscommunication.

...The Edwards family will return to Lawrence on Sunday for a 1 p.m. (2 p.m. ET) rally at a local park.

The Kerry campaign had not planned any official stops in Kansas, a solidly Republican state where President Bush won a 21-point victory in 2000. Saturday, the train journey continued through Colorado and New Mexico.

How Ms. Edwards explained it:

Missing Lawrence
After an unbelievable rally in Kansas City -- I mean 25,000 plus people who were really alive with energy, people as far as you could see, people who started gathering before 5 for a 10 PM rally -- we boarded the terrific train again. It was getting late by then, and we had no news of any crowds waiting for us as we sped in the darkness through Kansas. People onboard started falling asleep, dropping off slowly, pulling out pullmans, grabbing a pillow and blanket and curling up in a chair for our overnight on the train.

I was sitting up in the small lounge at the back of our car when I
heard it: the growing sounds of cheers and screams, and then I saw it --
speeding by too fast to count, on both sides of the track, was it a thousand or more people waiting for us in Lawrence, Kansas? They were cheering and waving and smiling. We raised our hands to wave, but the engineer hadn't slowed and by the time we had waved even a little to the signs and cheers and camera flashes, it was dark again. We sat frustrated -- but we knew we were not as frustrated as the people of Lawrence, Kansas, who stood until 1 AM for the train to pass through -- a whistle stop, a slow roll, whatever. And then "whatever" was just a glimpse, a half-wave.

So we awoke this morning, scrambling to find a way to show Lawrence the same affection it had shown us. Our promise to Lawrence: we are juggling right now so that we can visit and thank you in person for that great gift in the darkness.

Why the people of Lawrence showed up...

If the candidates didn’t feel committed to stop and speak in Lawrence, why did the campaign staff feel it could advertise a campaign stop?
If the candidates wanted to stop in Lawrence and speak, why didn’t they make sure the engineer knew that?
Or was it that the campaign advertised a stop, and the candidates weren’t aware of the hype, and enough people were lured out that they feel it necessary to skimp on some other appearance to make up for it?

Now for failing to slow down and wave, Edwards has lost a whole day off his schedule.

I mismanage my time too, but I don’t go around pretending I should be President…

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