Monday, May 26, 2008

McCain's fundraiser

After leaving the rally I sped through the Interstate 5 traffic and made my way to the home of Alex Spanos.  I had never been to the home of a billionaire, so I really had no idea what to expect.  Of course, I had to get through the Secret Service and Stockton Police department first.  The Spanos home is in a neighborhood that looks like any other middle class neighborhood, except that there is a huge gate in front of the residence.  All access to the home was cut off by law enforcement, which required me to park down the street and walk about three blocks to the entrance to the grounds.  Maybe the Honda wasn't fancy enough to get through the blockade. 

My connections not only got me into the rally, but got me a ticket to a very nice fundraiser where the clientele paid thousands of dollars to rub elbows with some rather important political and business figures.  I was even more fortunate that I was going to get my picture taken with the Senator himself, John McCain. 

I met my connections to the Spanos estate, went through yet another Secret Service post, and made my way towards the main house.  I'm not kidding with the term "estate", because the Spanos clan knows how to make a nice atmosphere.  The property has a huge pond and a running creek, along with plenty of space to host, well, easily a thousand people.  We made our way to the main house, where we checked in again, and entered to a beautifully tasteful dwelling that inspired more respect than awe.  Yes, it was big, but it didn't seem gaudy or pretentious.  It looked like a house that someone could actually live in without the fear of breaking something really, really valuable.  We got in a line a people waiting to take a picture with the senator when I started to get introduced to people.  The Republican candidate for the congressional district Dean Andal and I conversed again, I met State Senator Jeff Denham, a variety of Assemblymen,  the former CEO of E-Bay Meg Whitman, and the former Secretary of Energy under Ronald Reagan, John Herrington.  Most seemed pretty down to earth, and Herrington was another person that didn't mind a "real" conversation, which was refreshing. 

Our line came upon an alcove in the home where Senator McCain and the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger were both posing for pictures with people.  My turn came to take the picture, along with one of my contacts.  The progression was McCain, my partner, myself, and Arnold.  As I passed next to the Governor, he asked how I was doing and shook my hand.  I stood next to him and said, "Fine, thank you Governor".  He gave me one of those narrow eyed, sidelong glances that he seems famous for.  I'm not kidding.  Oh, and Schwarzenegger might be big, but he is not tall at all.  5'11" maybe.  It felt a little weird being taller than the Terminator.  When the picture was snapped I passed by McCain, who reached out for my hand and said, "Thank you so much for coming".  I shook has hand and simply said "Thanks for everything you've done for the country, Senator".  He nodded and I moved on.  The encounter was brief and uneventful, but I got to shake the hand of someone that I had admired politically for many years. 

Next was the "rubbing elbows" reception that included very elegant food, excellent booze that I couldn't drink because I had to drive four more hours, and speeches from Arnie and McCain.  I wandered, not having much to say to anyone and doing more people watching than anything.  I recognized a few names from political blogs or news items, but didn't say anything since I had paid nothing to be here and it was something I just wanted to experience, not screw up.  Arnold spoke first, made some nice jokes about his wife Maria Schriver liking Barak Obama, and then introduced John McCain. 

I'm a firm believer that if McCain were to speak to the American people like to spoke at that fundraiser, he would easily win the General Election in November.  He first started off making jokes about Schwarzenegger and the rivalry between California and Arizona.  Then he talked about getting the support of other Republican voters, making a comment about the typical Ron Paul voter that was uproariously funny.  McCain then told a hilarious Irish joke (commenting that it was odd that the only acceptable ethnic jokes seemed to be Irish jokes), and spoke about the unity of the country.  He then went on to talk about the party issues; the War on Terror, Obama's inexperience, bloated government, and patriotism.  But this speech was different than the rally.  The energy was even more apparent and the passion seemed even more alive.  The end of the speech got into the economic realm as he started talking about the importance of innovation and the role of California as an economic leader of the country.  McCain pointed to Silicon Valley as the region where the gas price problem was going to change because the innovative spirit was going to advance technology.  His final words were about his commitment to coming to California to campaign because he felt like he could actually win the state in November.  While I highly doubt that, it was nice to seem him very animated.  When he was done, I was done.  I walked back to my car and began the four hour journey home.  I got back around 11:30 at night.

The experience was fun.  I met a lot of nice people and saw the side of a campaign from the inside, and from the point of view of people that can afford that kind of close access.  I would do it again if I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of Obama's campaign.   

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