Mr. President, our backs hurt. The chants and cheers that preceded the president's 25-minute speech filled the gymnasium at Canyon Springs High School, but the body language spoke even louder. The gym held hundreds of Obama supporters, who lined up before 6 a.m. to get a glimpse of the commander in chief. Half of them had seats in the risers. The other, unlucky ones waited on the floor. Elderly men flexed their knees. Women kneaded each other's backs. And a few squatted on the polished wood.
Then Obama arrived and the stretching ended. At least one person didn't let the long wait impede his political enthusiasm. The heckler started making trouble before the president even spoke. Just a couple minutes into the speech, he got agitated and shouted. A videographer close to the action caught at least one of the man's digs.
"Stop being a Republican bitch!" said the troublemaker, shortly before he was hustled out by secret service and local police. (Fun but irrelevant fact: The heckler was accompanied by his much more subdued identical twin, who followed him out.)
Obama, naturally, didn't miss a beat. The president, who was in town to campaign on his education agenda, zinged him right back.
"That young man might need a good teacher," he said.
The president said his policies have protected teaching jobs. In contrast, Romney would sacrifice the public education system to give tax cuts to corporations and the super-wealthy. Budget cuts in Clark County have forced teachers to add desks to already over-crowded classrooms. Economic challenges have led to a few other unfortunate changes as well. A quick trip to the women's restroom revealed that schools have apparently abandoned rolled toilet paper, replacing it with flimsy, single-ply sheets stored in a lock-box. This issue certainly needs to come up in any and all discussions of education reform.
Obama himself was back in full campaign mode, exhorting like a preacher and working the late-morning crowd into a cheering lather. It brought back memories of 2008, when Obama was the fresh face of hope and change. That transformative enthusiasm has cooled over the last term.
"He's done some good things and he's done some things I wasn't too happy about," said Gregg Frazier. "If I was to give him a grade, it would be a B-."
Still, Frazier was one of the ones who lined up at 6 a.m. to get a spot inside the gym. He wore several Obama stickers. It would be Frazier's first opportunity to see the president in-person, and he said the four-and-a-half hour wait was definitely worth it.