THE BLOG

Meet the Delegates: Kansas City, MO

08/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As with many of these events, the players -- those who showed -- came early. Several of the promised high-profile personalities, such as U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D) (Mo) and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) (Mo), never did make it.

While the catering company arranged the food table and the jazz trio warmed up, talk turned to Presidential hopeful John McCain. He had made an appearance a little more than four hours earlier at Kansas City's Union Station, not 12 blocks away from this event.

McCain and Obama are battling for Missouri. The state has a mixed history of red and blue. It breaks down as expected. Urban areas, such as Kansas City and St. Louis, tend to be Democratic strongholds, but the rural areas, particularly in the northern half of the state, have been electing Republicans.

"The 'Straight Talk Express' jet was parked outside my office all day," said a man who works at the Downtown Airport.

But this crowd couldn't comment much on McCain's appearance. They hadn't been invited and wouldn't have gone if they had been.

This event was organized to raise funds for those Kansas City area delegates who might not be as flush as others. The hope was, one organizer said, that the money would be divided "as needed" among the 15 local delegates.

One delegate is Alvin Brooks, who ran unsuccessfully for Kansas City mayor in the last election. He's a great guy, a former Kansas City cop, who has worked hard in the urban community. Before the mayoral run, he was head of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, and often was the spokesperson for Kansas City's African-American community.

Brooks said he was excited about going to Denver. His wife has many relatives there, he said, and they were looking forward to visiting with them. When asked if he would be attending Obama's stadium address, he said yes he would be.

"I was on a conference call from the National Committee, and they said we would get tickets for us and our wives," he said.

But he expressed concern with Obama speaking before such a crowd, which has been estimated to be approximately 75,000. "I'm concerned about his safety," he said of Obama. "I think if he can make it to November, it will be alright. But I don't know how you protect someone in that kind of crowd."

One of the 'Meet the Delegates' organizers was asked if McCaskill was going to show up. "I doubt it," was the simple answer.

McCaskill had been an early Obama supporter, even when Cleaver, a black Democrat representing Missouri's Fifth Congressional District, had aligned himself with Hillary Clinton.

When asked if McCaskill was still on Obama's list as a possible Vice President, the organizer gave an intriguing answer.

"I don't think so, but she's going to make a major speech at the convention," he said.

This is a guy who would know such things. He's worked closely with her over the years.

Another in attendance was asked if Cleaver was going to show. "I heard he was flying in at 5 [p.m.]," the guy said.

Cleaver never made it, and many were disappointed. Some believed he'd use the venue to acknowledge his new allegiance to Obama.

As the event gathered mass, (total numbers were approximately 70 or 80) another in attendance ranted about the Obama turnaround on the FISA issue.

"That guy came here and shook my hand; then look at what he did," the man said. "He's going to be no different than the others. He's going to invade Iran and the whole thing's going to lead to a nuclear conflict with Israel."

If he was ready -- and he was -- to throw Obama out with the bath water, others were not. One young lad who came in with a group of adults sported a red T-shirt depicting Obama's portrait with the word "Promise" underneath. At least two adults in attendance were wearing Obama shirts and caps.

About an hour into the event, the keynote speaker, former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, took the microphone. Barnes is engaged in a fierce battle with incumbent Congressman Sam Graves (R) for the Sixth Congressional District that runs from Kansas City North to the Iowa state line.

Graves is one of those 'God and country' Republicans, who made his mark with his boyish good looks and homespun campaign talk. His previous television ads showed him elbow-to-elbow with farmers and country folk, who populate a majority of the Sixth District.

In fact, Barnes' appearance at this event was likely a plea for support for her own campaign. And although many in attendance would be outside the Sixth District, this was the crowd who would donate.

Barnes' talk was short; punctuated with "we all know how important this election is" references and talk about getting behind the candidate. Barnes is a strong local politician and can stay on message with the best of them.

"The good news is, there is momentum out there," she told the crowd. "As I'm out in the Sixth District, it is clear to me that people want change. They are disenchanted; even many Republicans are with their own party. So, the door is wide open for us to do whatever we need to do to celebrate not only a big victory in November, but a huge set of victories. That's the goal; we can do it."

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