President Barack Obama didn't milk a dairy cow or take a dip in the Connecticut River hot springs on his swing through Vermont on Friday. But he did give thousands of screaming fans at a Burlington fundraising rally a show well worth the $44 price of admission.
On his first trip to Vermont as president, Obama sought to rekindle the magic of the 2008 campaign that catapulted him to the White House. He headlined a $7500-a-plate ($10,000 for a couple) luncheon at the Sheraton hotel, then zipped by motorcade across the street to University of Vermont's Patrick Gym, where a standing-room-only crowd of more than 4000 greeted him with defeaning cheers.
"It is good to be in Vermont," Obama said to the adoring masses, many of them decked out in red-white-and-blue Obama attire. "Out of all 50 states, Vermont has gone the longest without a presidential visit. The last time a president stopped by was President Clinton in 1995. So we decided today we're hitting the reset button."
Obama also offered condelences to the family of murder victim Melissa Jenkins, whose memorial service was scheduled for later Friday afternoon.
"This is a woman who, by all accounts, devoted her life to her community and helping to shape young minds and I know that Vermont is heartbroken," the president said.
Obama was on friendly soil in Vermont. A Castleton State College poll in February found that 56 percent of Vermonters approved of the job Obama is doing. Nationally, Obama's job approval rating hovers around 47 percent, depending on the poll.
(Video clips from speech after the jump)
Some of Obama's biggest applause lines came when he defended his signature health care law and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and when he said, "Change is the fact that for the first time in nine years there are no Americans fighting in Iraq." (Apologies for shaky camera work).
Obama laid out his case against the Republicans — whose motto, he said, is "you're on your own."
The media covering the president's visit was its own mob scene — and a tighly controlled one.
Reporters were picked up in yellow school buses from Waterfront Park and shuttled up College Street to Patrick Gym. After receiving credentials, reporters were patted down by a Secret Secret agent who was a spitting image of Jay Leno (and admitted as much), who waved a metal-detecting wand over our spread-eagle bodies. A bomb-sniffing canine gave reporters' bags a once over.
Reporters waited in a dance studio that served as a staging area. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was there chatting with reporters before the Secret Service took notice and ushered him out the door. (Pictured)
For whatever reason, the press wasn't allowed into the main area until just before Obama went on stage. We could hear Grace Potter and the Nocturnals warming up the crowd but we weren't allowed in to see her or Gov. Peter Shumlin, who spoke before Obama. In effect, the people attending the fundraiser became the journalists, tweeting news that the journalists held in the staging area could only retweet. Obama's people wouldn't explain why we weren't allowed inside for the pre-show. Even the logistics they gave us were "off the record."
More coverage of the Obama visit in next week's "Fair Game."
Photo and Video Credit: Andy Bromage