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This week we get all hot and bothered with Debbie Wasserman Schultz at an Obama office launch, then we get get all cold and critical in our private prison cell. We go to extremes.

Photo: Billy Manes, License: N/A

Billy Manes

With all of the cyclonic uncertainty menacingly wobbling off the coast, we weren’t even sure what we were thinking about on Aug. 25. That was the Thursday that could have ended all Thursdays, the tempest to topple our teapots, so just about the last thing we expected among the feeder-band flare-ups of a fickle Irene was to be thrust into the similarly tempestuous dizziness of the 2012 presidential election, now brought to you by prayer and hairspray. Frankly, we would rather have been hunkering down.

But that wasn’t to be. Right across the street from Happytown™ HQ’s boarded up fallout shelter the folks of Organizing for America (or Obama for America, depending on who you talk to) were sowing the grass-roots seeds for next year’s campaign effort with the ceremonious opening of their brand new offices. Punch and pie!

When we arrived around 7:30 p.m. there was already a line of concerned faces and wonkish opportunists queuing up the foyer stairs in what would immediately become a sweat waterfall of overcapacity. Most were in attendance to get “fired up” – that’s a chant, see – about the president’s re-election campaign via a promised visit from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee and the foghorn firebrandof the Sunday teevee talking tables.

Congressional hopeful (and former Orlando police chief) Val Demings was pressed up against our back for a few minutes, forcing an awkward (arresting?) conversation in which she seemed to imply that we needed to write her a check or we would not be going home.

Eventually we were yanked into what was a makeshift press area – also known as a kitchen – to do what we always do at these events: stand, wait and count the sweat droplets that descend from our nape to our ass. A couple of volunteers were pushed in our direction by a media handler, and both gave the desired blips about the ramping up of ground operations locally. “The response has been awesome,” offered Elva Smith, optimistically. Her compatriot-with-the-most-amazing-name-ever, Fedorah Philippeaux, was a little more circumspect. “They need to get us a message from D.C.,” she said. “If [they] don’t do that now, we could lose this.”

Uh-oh. From then on, the next two hours were as much a lesson in fire-hazard crisis management as they were in the group dynamics of crowding Democrats. In short, everyone knows that the I-4 corridor is going to decide the 2012 stakes, this whole thing is going to make 2008 look like “amateur hour,” and no, we don’t want to take two steps back to make room for the chairwoman in this sweatlodge of earnestness.

By the time Wasserman Schultz arrived at 9 p.m. (precisely the time the event was supposed to wrap up – Democrat time!),nerves were frayed, brows were wet and the elderly were crawling away. Somebody made a joke about mean old Allen West and crazy-haired Rick Perry, but nobody was laughing anymore. And then it happened: The diminutive chairwoman parted the crowd flanked by – wait for it – former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (yikes!) and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (“The best mayor in the United States of America,” apparently). The requisite boilerplate of making “the middle class a priority,” and talk of jobs and gay rights followed, leading up to Wasserman Schultz’s calling for the “most robust, effective grass-roots campaign in history.” Um, again.

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