Column: Glitz Replaces Substance As Election Nears

This story was written by Rashmi Joshi, Daily Bruin
Its so peaceful. Our small and generally ignored presidential election is creating no media waves, and the candidates havent said a word against each other. Both senators are jovial about their futures and so relaxed that they have abandoned the usual suit-and-tie costume for board shorts and flip-flops. Best friends for life, the two candidates have even planned a joint vacation with their families scheduled to take place after this little race is over.

I dont think those sentences could read true of any American election, ever. The battle, wilder and fiercer than ever, has now become more about who has the biggest flash factor, and political Bruins are jumping into the game. With his newest rally in Sin City, Sen. Obamas campaign has definitely become louder and flashier than Sen. McCains.

Many people gouged Yes We Carve into pumpkins in Las Vegas on Friday as they awaited the Obama rally scheduled for the next day. More popular that weekend than Mamma Mia! or the Blue Man Group, Obama headlined in Vegas on Saturday, and as usual, he drew a huge crowd. Among that crowd was a large group of Bruin Democrats.

One student described her weekend as an extremely positive experience.

Weve been identifying Obama supporters, going back to them and trying to convince them to vote early, said Sonya Mehta, a third-year international development studies student and event coordinator for the Bruin Democrats.

The Illinois senator drew a hefty crowd of 18,000 spectators at his Early Vote for Change rally (what is that name trying to say exactly?) held at Bonanza High School. So first we had the Jack OBama Lanterns and then a massive rally thats how you know this is a battle state. This is Obamas 19th visit to Nevada, and as we can see, there is no concept of over-the-top when it comes to fighting it out with his favorite maverick. I am a huge supporter of Obama, but even I think pumpkin-carving and rollicking rallies in Vegas are too much.

I understand that politics is very often about how many sequins you can stick on your poster board, and Nevada is a big prize and definitely worth fighting for. Its just that it has gotten too razzly-dazzly for this shoulder-brushing, basketball-dunking messiah. And that makes it frightening.

We have so many expectations, so many hopes all tied up in one person that toppling that rickety tower is not going to be a difficult thing to accomplish. But for better or worse, people really believe in this guy and arent afraid to express their support in all sorts of manners.

Weve seen so much energy, Mehta said. We have 30 to 40 to 50 people giving up their weekends and (volunteering) to go to different states. We havent had to push people, the energy is already there.

People say that UCLA isnt a political campus, but there were 51 Bruin Democrats in Las Vegas this weekend alone; thats just what this campaign and this candidate are doing to people. During the next week, the final pow-wows between the candidates are not going to be about any higher message, grand ideals or luminous thought. They will be about pom-poms and sequins. And as it seems right now, Obamas efforts just seem festooned with extra balloons and trumpets.

While Obama led the parade in Las Vegas, McCain was in Colorado, another hot battle state. He drew only a few thousand people (not even enough to fill the venue), and booing protestors frequently interrupted his speech. Obama managed to jam 18,000 swooning fans into a high school on a Saturday, some so enamored that they had been busy carving his face into pumpkins the day before.

In the Log Cabin Campaign of 1840, the Whig candidate for president, William Henry Harrison, was the first man to actively campaign for the office f president. Popular among the people, he ran with a message that he was just a rough-and-tumble man like the rest of them and drew large crowds because apparently, he, too, was immensely likable. People flocked to get his campaign gear he passed out hard cider in bottles shaped like log cabins and then voted him the ninth president of the United States during one of the worst economic depressions in our countrys history.

Armed with pumpkin carving stencils and winning rhetoric, winsome Obama is using the same kind of uber-populist approach to win some votes, especially in battle states such as Nevada.

It was so close in 2004, Mehta said. We lost by 2.5 percent. Weve been getting good reactions (this year), and the Democrats have out-registered the Republicans in Nevada.

So, yes, Obamas gatherings have always been massive, flashy and reminiscent of rock concerts as opposed to political functions. But the nature of his enthusiastic support and Americas need of a new face has made it that way. Vaudevillian though it may be, its working for him. We definitely still remember Lincoln, also a young senator from Illinois who made a big splash during his campaign. Obama, his successor, is leading in almost every major national poll. Four score and seven years from now, theyll still talk about this one.