The Kasich Town Hall began at 5:30 p.m., and was broadcast to the world at 10 p.m. later that evening on Moderator Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox News network. (Note: Officially – this was billed as a “Fox exclusive” - personnel from other media were not permitted, although Photographer Mark Bolles and I went as citizens… Mark, like many in the audience, took pictures with his phone, and I snuck in a note pad fully prepared to say it was for a civics class project if need be).
If you are reading this by now, chances are good that you were there, watched the broadcast, read about it, or any combination of these. So while this is hardly breaking news, let’s add a little spice to the mix with some observations:
- The audience – extremely orderly and well behaved. Exhibiting conduct that would make Saratoga Springs - or your mom - proud. If you don’t think that’s notable, compare this to most Donald Trump rallies, including Monday’s in Albany. No pushing and shoving here. People filed in orderly and behaved enthusiastically. Bridgette from Ballston Spa brought her seven-year old son Patrick, who was wide-eyed and shy, “This is a great experience for kids, and for me. In New York most years the (nominee) decision is usually made by now, so it’s great that we are getting all this attention,” she said.
“I’m curious to listen to a candidate that has more to say than Donald Trump,” said Bruce Clements, owner of a long-standing, multi-generational, Saratoga Springs-based Clements Insurance Agency.
Former Saratoga Springs Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton came out to “evaluate all the Republican candidate’s policies and experience… I want to know what they have to offer to solve the many problems we face today.”
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that no one checked my ticket – I even was prepared to go through some sort of metal detector for this event, but there was none. There was, however, a sizable and visible city police presence, as you might expect, and I, for one never welcomed one more, nor felt safer anywhere. Kudos to Public Safety and the City Center’s people, for the planning and effort that went into this event, on relatively short notice.
- The Atmosphere – The main ballroom was set up for TV – the décor looked like a campaign headquarters, but otherwise anything outside of camera range was left sparse. My personal hero of the night was the camera operator, who maneuvered what appeared to be a multi-ton boom apparatus, allowing the camera to ‘float’ over the audience during segment ‘intros’ and ‘outros,’ and also focused in on the moderator and candidate from various angles and vantage points. A ‘big boy’s toy’ in the extreme, and cool.
- Moderation – I have to admit, I wasn’t a Sean Hannity ‘guy’ going in, and in fact, his questioning was hardly probing. In introducing candidate Kasich, he described him as a “good friend” and basically lobbed mostly softballs. No Trump/Chris Matthews skirmishing here. But from the standpoint of a television event, Hannity exhibited an extremely good sense of humor during the off-camera “commercial breaks,” revving up the crowd and peppering the proceedings with segments - such as when he attempted to ‘persuade’ a young couple from the VIP seats to come up on stage and have the male to propose marriage to his girlfriend. Either she was a great actress, or the look on her face had genuine OMG written all over it! (He asked her, by the way, but it was to have dinner after the town hall). Hannity was a hilarious ringmaster, and at his best during these moments where, if you weren’t there, you’d never know.
- The Candidate – Without getting into his specific policies, which are available on his website, John Kasich delivered his message concisely and forthrightly. He may have little or no shot to become someone you can actually vote for this year for President, but he certainly looked and acted like one. At one point, Hannity asked the crowd how many were Kasich supporters were in the room, and well more than half them cheered enthusiastically. This is hardly scientific, but certainly had to be gratifying to the Kasich people – at least to the extent that it fueled their energy en route to their next stop on the campaign trail.