Springfield Residents Wait outside the Basketball Hall of Fame to catch a glimpse of the First Lady Michelle Obama - image WAMC.org
It is not often that a notable politician or U.S. Dignitary visits Western Massachustts for a political fundraiser, or rally, or event at one of the dozens of colleges and universities in the area. Springfield, which is the largest city in Western Massachustts, rarely is offered the opportunity to stand out, and line the streets to rally support or conversely “protest”, the appearance of a “notable”. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010) The City of Springfield is the largest city in Western Massachusetts, with 152,000 residents of which 22.3% are African American, and 38.8% are Hispanic or Latino, making Springfield the most diverse City in Western Massachusetts. . It is also has the largest voting bloc of registered Democrats. According to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Website Of the 91,780 registered voters in Springfield, 47,780 are registered Democrats.
Therefore the news accounts today of Michelle Obama’s visit to Springfield, even if it was only for a fundraiser, are mind-boggling:
From Mass Live (Springfield Republican)
A motorcade brought the first lady into the basement garage of the Hall of Fame. She was then to be brought to the MassMutual Room, where the fundraiser event was underway…
A number of people appeared to be just hanging around the Hall of Fame complex to try to get a look at Obama…
Onlookers, however, got no glimpse of the first lady. Her motorcade, preceded by state police motorcycles, was all business as it pulled into the front entrance of the Hall of Fame’s parking lot and down into the underground garage….
From WGGB (ABC /Fox)First Lady’s Stop to Springfield Brought a Big Crowd
Michelle Obama made a stop on Friday to the Basketball Hall of Fame to support her husband’s re-election campaign.
Hundreds gathered outside hoping to meet her because the last time a first lady came to this side of the Bay State was in 1994 when Hilary Clinton came to speak at Springfield College, so for people in the Pioneer Valley, this was an opportunity that doesn’t come often.
“I’m proud to be an Obama support and happy to be able to see Michelle Obama today,” said Nancy Tener of Newton.
Unfortunately, not everyone got that opportunity. The only one’s who did were the people who paid $1,000 for lunch or $2,500 for lunch and a photo.
(Note Newton is located approximately, 82 miles east of Springfield)
Finally, the big crowd reported by WGGB, according toMass Live, the Springfield Republican, was a “dozen” onlookers.
What one has is a visit by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to a region of the Bluest State, with a population that is predominately Democrat, to raise funds for her husband, President Obama’s reelection campaign. This took place, in a State where the President’s, competition, Mitt Romney, not only resided, but was the Govenor. Additionally to all polls taken by the local Universities, the President should consider MA a fairly safe bet for reelection. Additionally with over 12% of the City officially unemployed, and the close proximity to major enclaves of Democrats from Holyoke to Northampton and beyond into the Hills – it begs the question: Why weren’t there thousands of people lining the streets to waive at the First Lady’s car as she arrived? The First Lady – a pretty big deal if one is a Democrat, Independent or none of the aforementioned.
A little background on visitors to Springfield or the area of note:
The last political notable to visit the City was former First Lady, Hillary Clinton, in 2008 as a then candidate Clinton who Clinton drew capacity crowds in Springfield, where 5,000 people turned out to hear her speak at Springfield College.. In fact, it was impossible to get near the event, as the traffic leading to the College was impossible a half hour before the event (blogger personal experience).
Heads of State, Religious Leaders: The Dalai Lama visited Northampton in 2007 where he drew a crowd similar in scope to Hillary Clinton (5,000) (Sun Journal Lewiston/Auburn)
The Press: The first notice came from Mass Live on on July 10, 2012 Channel 22, the local NBC Affiliate, also announced the visit, noting that a rare event would draw large crowds. On July 19 and July 20th, the Local CBS Affiliate mentioned the visit as the City of Springfield was fixing potholes ahead of the First Lady’s visit. On July 31st the ABC/Fox Affiliate announced that the “First Lady’s Visit was Just Days Away”, Mass Live announced the preparations for the First Ladies Visit on August 1st On August 2nd the NBC Affiliate offered a “First Lady Traffic Advisory” there may have been more, however, this is based on Google News results.
Or perhaps the lack of crowds was a result of the timing of the work day. That said, surely the Teachers Unions, retirees, and those who work Second Shifts make up a large enough percentage of the population to muster more than dozen supporters? – given the 47,000 registered Democrats in Springfield alone (and the import from Newton).
Or perhaps it is the lack of voter enthusiasm – or lack of enthusiasm due to high unemployment, or the traffic advisory, or the fact that, perhaps, just perhaps, the State of Massachustts is not quite as “blue” as the pollsters, pundits predict. Hypothetically, (based on those aforementioned polls), even if there are more Romney supporters in Massachusetts, coupled with less enthusiastic Democrats, the fact that a notable, someone as notable as the First Lady, Michelle Obama, visited and merely a dozen or even reports of “hundred” showed to rally or stand on the sides of streets. It is a missed opportunity for the Obama Campaign and a missed opportunity for the MA Democrat Party, that in an election year they did little to no advance work to pull crowds in the thousands in honor of the First Lady of the United States of America.
Final Local News Coverage
Video on visit by CBS Affiliate
CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM