If you watched Chris Matthew’s Hardball show on MSNBC in the hours before and after the Oct. 7 presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., you would have seen at least one blue and gold “Steelworkers for Obama” sign in the background.
Over 20 USW members and staffers joined several hundred—and at one point over a thousand—diehard Obama and McCain volunteers, each trying to get their candidate’s signs and themselves in front of the television cameras at the show’s outdoor stage on the Belmont University campus. Belmont hosted the 90-minute debate.
The USW people arrived there three hours before the first Hardball broadcast at 4:00 p.m. (central time) to stake out positions directly behind Matthews and his guests. In the background two people thrust the United Steelworkers banner high above the crowd.
A severe thunderstorm with lightening and loud thunderclaps rolled through the area for about two hours before the first show, but the USW folks held onto their coveted positions along the fence surrounding the stage despite the downpours.
McCain’s supporters were outnumbered by Obama enthusiasts. The McCain people held a couple of banners and small signs. Their chants were drowned out by shouts of “Obama!”
The Steelworkers apparently made an impression on the McCain supporters. One of them, interviewed by a college newspaper, said there were 400 Steelworkers and that they were bused in. Apparently he couldn’t count because every Steelworker wore a Steelworker shirt.
During the show everyone had to be quiet. One of the production people for the program was like a conductor. When he pushed his hands down everyone had to stop shouting, and when he raised his hands, which usually happened as the show was coming on or off, all hell broke loose. People shouted “Obama!” in unison and waved their signs, especially when a camera panned the audience.
By the start of the second show at 6 p.m. (central time), the place turned into a circus. People from the Obama march to Belmont poured into the area and squeezed into the roped-off area. The McCain supporters mostly left, and Matthew’s remarked that the place sounded like the Democratic convention.
Despite being penned in by the crowd, the USW folks held their ground and the union’s signs again formed the backdrop of the show. Several of the USW supporters had to leave after the second broadcast, but they left their signs with other Obama supporters. So the 11 p.m. (central time) show still had good coverage of the Steelworkers support for Obama.
We had made our mark.