Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) was driving toward Washington Thursday morning when he got a call from Barack Obama. Brady asked Obama where he was and the man fast approaching ‘presumptive nominee’ status told him he was in the Senate.
Brady had an idea: Obama should pop on over to the House chamber and say hello. And that’s just what the Illinois senator did.
When he walked onto the floor, said Brady, Obama made straight for the Pennsylvania corner. “See, Bob,” he said. “I listen to you sometimes.”
“You got to listen to me all the time,” Brady, an uncommitted superdelegate, said he joked in response.
Brady’s casual suggestion turned into quite a scene, as Obamamania – fueled by Tuesday night’s results in Indiana and North Carolina – descended onto the floor of the House in full force.
As Obama made his way slowly through the House mob, reporters piled up outside the nearest door to the House floor, craning their necks to get a look. Security guards pressed through the media crowd, repeatedly asking the fourth estate to keep a lane open for lawmakers.
Supporters and opponents alike maneuvered to get face-time, whether it was 73-year-old Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) patiently waiting his turn or Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Clinton supporter from Fla, giving Obama a big hug.
Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.) had the man autograph today's copy of the NY Daily News. (Cover: "It's his Party"). Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a Clinton backer, and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) gave him bear hugs on the floor, as well.
Even Republicans were star-struck. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said she was escorting a group of young elementary school students onto the House floor when Obama made his entrance.
Ros-Lehtinen said the children noticed the presidential hopeful and screamed, “It’s Barack Obama!” in unison. The congresswoman then led the students across the aisle and over to Obama, who chatted briefly with the three students.
“The kids were very excited,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “Like rock star excited.”
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), an Obama supporter, said that a number of Republicans crossed the aisle to congratulate him. “One told me that if he wins, he looks forward to working with him,” said Conyers, who would not give the member’s name. “I’ve worked with him before on some things, but that still surprised me.”
Conyers suggested that Obama’s primary opponent needs to repeat the cross-chamber journey. “Hillary’s got to come now,” he said.
Twice, it looked like Obama was about to leave the chamber, but he got pulled back in by superdelegates — both committed and uncommitted.
Obama himself, apparently mindful of his shadow, bowed before Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Obama’s core constituency—the youth vote—was fully represented, too, though most of the pages in the chamber won’t be voting until 2012. But they made their opinion clear.
Obama posed for photos with giddy pages on the staircase leading up to the House gallery. The normally staid and deferential pages, who walk the halls quietly on their best behavior, returned the favor, giving Obama a rousing ovation. Security guards reprimanded reporters and tourists for snapping photos with their phones - something that is strictly forbidden in many parts of the chamber unless you are a credentialed photographer—but to little avail.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), arrived after Obama and said she was not sure who had invited him. "I don't know if he was invited by members," Pelosi said. The visit to the Speaker’s chamber, however, didn’t sway her from her officially uncommitted position, she said. "Me, I like combat," Pelosi said. "The best training for campaigning is campaigning."
Not all Republicans, though, were thrilled to see him. As he crossed the aisle to meet Obama, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), shook his head. “Lord no,” he said. “Lord no.” And Obamamania can have consequences for one's day job. The Senate, the body of which Obama is a member. voted a few minutes after Obama’s victory lap through the House, but Obama was nowhere to be found. He skipped a Senate roll call vote on a budget point of order on a flood insurance bill.
Updated: More visits with Obama
Amie Parnes, back on Obama stakeout, reports that Washington Rep. Jay Inslee crossed paths with the Illinois Senator during Obama's second round of meetings on the Hill.
He's a Clinton superdelegate.
The undecideds visiting Obama so far: DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; Mike Honda of California; Ron Klein of Florida; and Bob Etheridge and Brad Miller of North Carolina.
UPDATE: A source tells Parnes that two of those I initially listed were actually just there to make fundraising calls, not to visit Obama, so the list is revised.
UPDATE: It's unclear if Inslee was visting Obama or just visiting the DNC to make his own calls. I've adjusted the item to reflect that. Steve Israel, another Clinton supporter, told us he said hi to Obama, but will stick with Hillary.
UPDATE: Inslee says he didn't meet Obama, and he's sticking with Clinton.