With its warped base and weathered woofer, the worn wooden podium at the Obama campaign’s West Oak Lane field office wasn’t quite suitable for Saturday afternoon’s “Get Out the Vote” special guests.
After the determination was made — and while a black Chevy crossover SUV with a public address system circled the surrounding blocks saying, “The Vice-President’s wife will be in your neighborhood with the Mayor today” — Jill Biden’s advance team brought in a lectern seemingly more befitting of the dignity of a Second Lady.
When the VIPs reached the 7171 Ogontz Ave. location to a standing ovation, the exuberant, enthusiastic and sometimes emotionally-charged words that poured forth from the preferred podium touched upon a theme of urgency that Mayor Michael Nutter ultimately put into six words:
“Three days for four more years.”
An election about voters’ lives
“I’ve been traveling all around the country, and I’ve been talking to Americans,” said Biden to dozens of volunteers and visitors. “What they’re saying is, ‘This [election] is about their lives.'”
Touting the Obama administration’s various initiatives — among them education, veterans’ rights, women’s rights and insurance reform — Biden said that even if her husband wasn’t on the ticket, she would still work for Obama, as his vision “is so critical to the path we take.”
This wasn’t the first reference to the perceived imperatives of the 2012 presidential race. Ashley Biden, who introduced her mother, observed earlier in the event that this election “is the most critical election of our lifetime.”
“There is so much at stake,” continued the Second Lady.
“We have three days to go — this is our final push,” she said, asking volunteers to continue their calling and canvassing. “It’s not going to be me or Michelle or Barack or Joe. We can’t do this by ourselves. We need each and every one of you to take us to victory on Nov. 6.”
Local politicos speak
Mayor Michael Nutter was set to speak next, but recognizing that all were standing in the city’s first Obama campaign office in “the town that Dwight built,” he called state Rep. Dwight Evans to the podium.
Evans told Jill Biden that in 10th ward, Obama received 99-percent of the vote in 2008, with a 74-percent turnout.
“The goal now,” he continued, “is 85-percent turnout, and 100-percent of the vote.”
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah followed Evans. Allowing that the 10th Ward would be number one, he declared that this election is not only about the president.
“It’s about the kind of country we want,” said Fattah, then citing indices that suggest economic improvement during Obama’s term. “The things we want up are up.
“Now, when you get in your car, if you want to go backward, you tend to go towards the ‘R’,” Fattah said to laughter. “If you want the car to go forward, you put it in ‘D’.”
Nutter’s message to undecideds
Resuming the rostrum, Mayor Nutter said, “We’ve got work to do.”
Referring to those fabled undecided voters in whose hands the presidential election ostensibly sits, Nutter asked, “What is it that you’re undecided about?”
Rattling off the policy highlights of the Obama administration, Nutter said, “If you’re undecided by now, you ain’t voting.”
Turning his attention to Hurricane Sandy and its impacts in the city, Nutter praised residents and city and state officials for their cooperation in mitigating the impact of the storm in Philadelphia. However, Nutter wasn’t so sure about the Republican presidential hopeful.
“We came through Hurricane Sandy fairly well,” said Nutter, “but we can’t survive Mitt Romney and the destruction he will bring to this city and this country.”
Ninth District City Councilwoman Marian Tasco didn’t speak on Saturday — she stayed on the sidelines in her red, yellow and green Obama T-shirt — but offered her appraisal of the event’s impact on campaign workers.
“The people here are really ready to go,” said Tasco. “Obama’s message continues to inspire and [Saturday’s event] helps the volunteers to know that that the leadership is here with you and is working with you.”
Stephanie Wilkins of West Oak Lane said that she was fired up by the event, and that she was anticipating four more years.
“Everyone’s excited,” said Wilkins, a statement that included her 12-year-old daughter Brittany, who had never been so up-close-and-personal with such significant political figures.
“It was awesome,” said Brittany.
Mt. Airy resident John Braddock, a volunteer at the West Oak Lane office, was pleased with the dignitaries’ visit, but didn’t want to get too distracted from the task of re-electing President Obama.
“I’m just here to volunteer,” he said. “All this is extra.”
Referencing the numerous law enforcement and Secret Service personnel present on Saturday, West Oak Lane resident Ruth Rosario the day was “a little excitement in my little tiny life.”
Nevertheless, Rosario found the speakers to be both “enlightening and very motivational,” specifically mentioning the passion that Mayor Nutter put into his speech, “getting everyone revved up to come out and vote.”
“West Oak Lane,” she said, “ya gotta represent.”