There were a few tell-tale signs Saturday afternoon at The Connector House of Catfish and Ribs on 16th Street: The long-hair biker guy from the Peace Coalition was there. An older New York-accented gentleman with a "Bush Lied" button was munching fries at a corner table. A few white hip-hop artists sat restlessly near the bar. An older black woman asked for patience as she cooked catfish in the back as quickly as she could. But a scan of the standing-room-only crowd revealed few other obvious Idahoans for Obama.
"I'm just a little line-cook-slash-student," said Reggie Holmquist, a sophomore political science student at Boise State and spokesman for the newly formed group. Idahoans for Obama, with its hub, Idahoansforobama.org, is one of hundreds of electronically-organized committees that have sprouted across the country to support Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Their goal: Bring Obama to Idaho.
At press time, 110 people had demanded, via www.eventful.com, that Obama visit Boise. It's a site the Obama campaign is apparently tracking to gauge grassroots Internet support. The Idaho Obamans had raised about a quarter of their $2,000 goal for Obama campaign contributions, though they likely picked up more through raffle ticket sales at the Saturday event.
It's a far cry from the $1,000-a-plate Mitt Romney event at the Crystal Ballroom last month. Romney, a GOP candidate with the endorsement of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, has been to Idaho three times in the past year.
But the Obama crowd revealed some interesting trends. It was Cheryl Mills' first political event ever. Mills, who brought her 7-year-old daughter to the rally, said she generally votes progressive, but feels that she needs to get out and support a candidate this time.
"He's out there swimming upstream," she said of Obama. "I want to do something."
Bryn Vickery, who voted for Bush twice, said the utter failure of the war in Iraq is swinging her, and many of her Southern Baptist 20-something friends, across party lines.
"I think we need a minority president," she said. "That's why I like Obama." Many in the crowd described Obama as "fresh" and "refreshing." Even cute. Or JFK-like.
Though Democratic blogger Julie Fanselow ran the technology at the event, there was no sign of the Idaho Democratic Party, and party officials were surprised at the turnout.
"The groups that coalesce around presidential candidates are often people who aren't party stalwarts or activists and instead are inspired by the personality of a candidate," said Brian Cronin, chairman of the Ada County Democrats. "I think it's terrific that such a large political group is forming completely independent of the party."
Cronin has Obama's book by his bed and was invited to speak at the Obama event, but could not make it.
Chantrice Thomas, whose family runs The Connector, loves Obama, but does not think he will gather much steam in Idaho.
"If people vote for Obama it will surprise me," she said. "It's not a racist thing, it's a Republican thing."