Saturday, January 19, 2008

Politics, John McCain and Me

I have always been interested in politics and in fact had worked on some campaigns as far back as George McGovern and canvassed door to door for local elections when I was in high school. With technology and social media adding an additional way for candidates to get closer to their constituents, independent voters and others, it seems that my expertise in Facebook may be useful to them.

So last week, I received and e-mail from Maurice, inviting me to go with him to a John McCain Town Meeting in Lake Wylie, SC. As we drove down to the rally, we talked about politics, each candidate, what we liked or disliked. We also discussed how the mayor of Charlotte just announced he is running for Governor of the state.

I was reading off the mapquest directions as we found our way to T-Bones Steakhouse, a sprawling restaurant and bar directly on Lake Wylie. The parking lot was full when we arrived and we managed to work our way into the restaurant for the 5:45 town meeting. The place was filled with a combination of people, mostly South Carolinians and Charlotteans (North Carolinians)....mixed with the local political operatives and the national campaign workers. There also was enormous press coverage with bloggers, reporters, television and photographers.

A stage was set up in the middle of the restaurant with seats for all the dignitaries. Maurice and I made our way in and were on some stairs with a limited view of the proceedings. John McCain was supposed to be coming in through our narrow hallway so a local police officer was there to makes sure only certain people made it close to the stage, so we were about 100 feet away. However a few minutes before John McCain made his way in, the police officer left his post and I went right up front at the foot of the stage. There were 4 or 5 tv cameras to the left of the stage and one on the right.

All of a sudden applause started and John McCain and his entourage made his way through the kitchen (isn't that always how politicians enter restaurants and hotels) and on to the stage with his stunning beautiful wife. I started to snap some pictures with my " cameraphone"...

Senator Lindsay Graham (SC) and Tom Coburn (OK) both spoke and led up to the introduction of John McCain. I didn't realize until I arrived that it was a Town Meeting...but those who know me would figure I would have a question ready. After John McCain spoke about our recent successes in Iraq and some of the challenges we face domestically, they opened the floor to questions. I waited a bit to listen some of the early questions and to see how open and honestly he would answer. I found that there were some soundbite answers, but he truly came across as genuine and real. About 10 minutes into questioning, I raised my hand, and McCain chose me to ask the next question. I asked him about America's competitiveness in science and math and how he intends improve education for our youth and for those transitioning in our new technology based economy.

He gave me an answer which gave me some hope he understood the linkage of investing in this area. He told the crowd that he had visited Ireland and spoke with its leaders about how it became such a vibrant technology economy in such a short time. He understood and agreed this is an area the United States needed to address.

After the event ended, I was able to make my way over to John McCain, shake his hand personally and thank him for answering my question. As I drove off, I thought of a question which might have been self serving, but interesting....since I am the creator of, how does social media change the dynamics of the 2008 campaign. Well, as our friend, and boxing promoter Don King (who used to frequent the halls of HBO) says "Only in America".