"We do know this, Houston: The change we seek is still months away and we need the good people of Texas to get there," Obama said. "If we're blessed and honored to win the nomination, then we're going to need you to help win the election in November."
We rode the train downtown and stood for an hour in one of two lines that snaked along the front, around the corner, and down the side of Toyota Center, but my feet were hurting and my blood sugar low so we stepped out of line about 7 p.m., walked over to the BUS, ate, and went home.
The audience of approximately 19,000, which had waited hours for him to speak, drowned Obama out time and again as he described his vision of change in America and called Washington a place "where good ideas go to die." The crowd cheered and chanted Obama's battle cry of "Yes, we can!"
He promised the crowd he will end predatory lending practices that contributed to the national mortgage lending crisis. He said he will end lobby influence in Washington. And he said he will replace tax breaks for wealthy people and corporations that ship jobs overseas with tax cuts for the middle class.
Obama also said he wants to reform the immigration system. He has promised to bring those who are productive workers onto the path to citizenship while punishing employers who hire illegal workers.
"If you are ready for a change, we can stop using immigration as a political football," he said.
Obama's speech began about 8:40 p.m. and lasted for 45 minutes; except for the list of locals whom he thanked and a brief description from the card given to all inside describing the complicated Texas prima-caucus, he spoke without notes or teleprompter. Here's the first half:
Oh yeah, about that early voting that started yesterday:
By the end of the day, 9,233 ballots were cast in the Democratic primary; 2,914 in the Republican, said Harris County Clerk's spokesman Hector de Leon. First-day totals for early voting in the 2004 presidential primary totaled 849 in the Democratic contests and 678 in the Republican.
I put out signs at 5:30 a.m. at my EV poll -- Fiesta Mart, at the intersection of OST and Kirby, in the shadow of Reliant Stadium -- and returned to vote about 10 a.m., after my doctor's appointment. There were about twenty e-Slates available but only half a dozen or so occupied; the bottleneck was at sign-in, where the lines were two and three deep. None of the registrars were offering to stamp voter registration cards or offering "receipts" for attending the March 4 caucuses, and when I asked to have my card stamped, the pad was so dry that my "Democratic" stamp was barely readable. Not from overuse, either.
Not the sort of difficulty that should be happening on the first day of voting.
We got home about 8 p.m., turned on the teevee to see if they had called Wisconsin, and watched Obama give that speech. Jeffrey Toobin of CNN declared it "too long".
Go on over to FOX, Jeff. Douchesack.
The final noteworthy event of the evening was Austin's Kirk Watson proving to be an embarrassment to himself, and pretty much all of us in Texas, by failing to name a legislative accomplishment of Obama's when challenged by
Other than that, a good time was had by all.
Oh yeah: Bill Clinton was downtown too.
Update: Watson has some answers now. Update (2/21): More photos inside and outside of Toyota Center here and here.