Yesterday found me playing host to a furious volley of papers and cell phones on a day trip to New York as key segments of the Lamont campaign migrated to my car for most of the afternoon and evening. I wish it was my sparkling wit and superb political acumen that earned me a spot on the road trip with campaign manager Tom Swan and ad empresario Bill Hillsman as we went to Manhattan to see Ned appear on the Stephen Colbert show, but mostly it was a willingness to shut up and drive while they went about the business of managing campaign chaos in its final days. Well, that and functional air conditioning.
Everyone had a slight case of nerves as we crowded into the green room. As Mark Pazniokas wrote in this morning’s Courant, Al Franken had advised Ned not to try and be funny. Colbert’s bookers told Ned that they normally schedule the show six weeks in advance but had wanted him enough to make a last minute cancellation to fit him in. Colbert came back to met Ned just before the show and really made him feel like he wanted him to do well. "I play a character who is willfully ignorant" he explained, but that was as much prep as Ned got. There was nothing scripted, no gags set up in advance.
I thought the warm-up guy had just done an exceptionally good job of getting the crowd going but they went nuts when Ned was announced. Colbert did his best Morton Kondrake impression, said Ned was destroying the Democratic Party, but then at least had the decency to thank him for it. Ned did fantastic. It was very interesting to see his earnest, hopeful, pragmatic message resonating with a non-Connecticut crowd whose tickets had been issued long before his appearance was scheduled.
Afterwards Annie Lamont joked that everyone breathed a huge, collective sigh of relief. We walked outside onto the street just as the crowd was coming out, and one after another walked past Ned to shake his hand, thank him and ask to have his picture taken with him — it was a virtual receiving line. He really does have something in his message and his delivery that people are hungry for right now. I don’t know when the corner was turned from pure anti-Liebermanism to pro-Lamontism, but somehow I think it has happened.