Upenn students report from the DNC

August 26, 2008 6:40:42 PM PDT
Editor's note: The following is a contribution from a University of Pennsylvania student, attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.To say that today was exceedingly exciting would be an understatement. Monday felt like a dress rehearsal when compared with today. The best way to describe it is this: I felt like I was a ball in a pinball game and the bumpers were famous politicians, journalists and celebrities.

To start the day off, as my class was yawning and trying to underscore the exhaustion we were all feeling, we were walking into the Pennsylvania Delegation breakfast and Chris Matthews (yes, of Hardball!) was walking in behind us. Mr. Matthews, who happened to be very good friends with one of our professors, sat with us at the delegation breakfast. He was hoping to use our class as "cover" so that he could avoid being approached by the kinds of people who had six degrees of separation with him. Unfortunately, Senator Casey "blew his cover" so to speak by announcing his presence to the entire delegation. Needless to say, the delegates were beyond excited to have one of their favorite sons in their presence. My seat was placed within earshot of the conversations between Mr. Matthews and those coming up to express their connection/enjoyment of his program. Despite the overwhelming enthusiasm of many of the speakers this morning, I was transfixed on the exchanges between Mr. Matthews and his fans. Seeing his poise in dealing with his potential future constituents, I could not help but think he viewed this as preparation for his future senatorial campaign.

After the speakers (which included a stump speech from Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill) ABC's Jim Gardner interviewed my class. As a native Philadelphian, meeting the person who has delivered the news to me for nearly twenty years was quite an experience. I was astounded by his modesty and genuine interest in the youth perception of the convention. Between sitting with Christ Matthews and drawing a huge amount of attention from the lighting and cameras that followed Jim Gardner, I think most of the delegation was left scratching their heads wondering who exactly we were! When they found out we were here because of a course, they were both fascinated and asking us if they could enroll in the Annenberg School for the 2012 course!

Following breakfast, we proceeded to the Brown's Palace hotel in Downtown Denver. For those who have not been to Denver, this hotel is one of the nicest and is the place to see and be seen during the convention. While sitting with two of Senator Obama's pollsters and strategists to the Latino community, my eye kept wandering to the excitement in the lounge of the hotel. These two gentleman offered incredible insight into how polling affects the message output to the Latino community as well as the strategies for garnering the important Latino vote. Hearing how nuanced targeting this segment of the population is makes me have a much greater appreciation for all of the aspects a campaign has is concerned with. It also makes me wonder what the polling discovers about my demographic and how careful the word choice is for the Facebook ads that are targeted at me from this campaign.

While listening, I saw Omarosa (of Apprentice fame) fixing her hair and make-up in a nearby mirror. I think she felt my staring and she turned and made direct eye contact (oops!) Also, for any Gilmore Girls fans out there, there was a sighting of Danny Strong, the person who played Paris's boyfriend on the show. As short as he was portrayed on the show, he was shorter in person! I am still unsure as to why he was present? Finally, while listening to the pollsters, a beam of light hit the wall. Following this was Governor Romney on his way to speak at a luncheon for the Christian Science Monitor. After our session dispersed, I attempted to sneak into the luncheon to hear Governor Romney. However, as soon as I cracked the door open an official with a clipboard came out to see if I was credentialed (the world of credentialing reared its ugly head again!) This turned out to be for the best as while in the lobby area and outside of the hotel Sean Penn and Ashley Judd passed me. Needless to say, I will certainly be hanging around this hotel tomorrow! Now, for the really great part of the day. I am sure you thought that I had already discussed it, but wait for this. Christ Matthews invited my class to the outdoor set of MSNBC to observe his show. Being with Mr. Matthews, we received the all-start treatment. We were escorted to the air-conditioned make-up trailer. Not only did we witness the transformation of the guests, but also we were able to have conversations with them and gain sights into different aspects of the convention. Once we were escorted to the stage, we saw the risk taken of having an outdoor set with accessibility to the public. While the front row audience members were all fans of the show and Obama supporters, there were protesters with bullhorns that made it all but impossible to hear the broadcast. I have tremendous respect for today's guests and Mr. Matthews for being able to remain focused on the task at hand with protesters yelling that, "9/11 was an inside job" and accusing Mr. Matthews of "entertaining rather than informing." The riot police were called to the scene and we were all instructed to go wash our eyes out if pepper spray was used. Fortunately, it was not!

Governor Romney was supposed to be a guest on the last segment of the show. However, due to the heavy traffic in and around the Pepsi Center, he was unable to leave. This meant two things. First, the interview would be conducted via satellite. Second, because of the time needed to set-up for the interview, there were a few extra minutes that required filling. As a result, Mr. Matthews interviewed our professor, former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies as well as our class (including me!) Between the lighting, the protesters and the excitement of being on television, I hope my remarks sounded somewhat intelligent?

Before we left the MSNBC complex we saw David Gregory as well as Keith Olbermann. Today really reminded me of how many events the convention includes. Before the primetime coverage even started, I had seen so much and was completely in the convention spirit! I look forward to hearing Senator Clinton's speech tonight, but I am more excited for what opportunities tomorrow holds!

Read Jen Leventhal's entry from Monday


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