When Howard Dean lost the New Hampshire primary last year, and his supporters gathered in the gymnasium at Southern New Hampshire State University, their joyful screaming was so intense that one’s body rattled, your ears buzzed, and it was frightening to think about what would have happened if he had won. The scene was, um, slightly more subdued at City College this afternoon, when the former Vermont governor turned current DNC chair appeared with Fernando Ferrer (or as Dean pronounced it, “Fer-ARE”), who polls suggest is on his way to having his own not-victory party next week.
“There’s no energy here!” complained Carlos Sierra, a student leader who was given the unenviable task of warming up the crowd. The event was starting late and the students noticed. The sound system was playing Foo Fighters, a tad grungy and five years too old for the couple hundred students who’d gathered on a breezy plaza at the Hamilton Heights campus. It was getting a little chilly in the shadows. Even Ferrer’s intrepid megaphone guy had a hard time engaging the audience.
“Let me tell you why I’m working hard for Freddy,” Dean, once he arrived, said to the semicircle of kids pursuing everything from electrical engineering to pre-med. “Freddy’s a guy who understands why CCNY’s important.” But then Dean went back to the Mike-is-a-GOP-sugar-daddy theme, criticizing the mayor for funding Tom DeLay’s PAC. Outgoing City Councilman Bill Perkins read from the same script, dissing the Iraq war. For his part, Ferrer took a shot at Governor Pataki. But the crowd was most enthused when strictly local matters, like cuts by Mayor Bloomberg to scholarship funds, came up. And when Freddy said, “Growing up in the South Bronx, college wasn’t for everybody. It wasn’t for most of us. But I was lucky,” kids said later that it spoke to them (although Ferrer seemed to lose them a bit when he joked, “If anyone here is thinking of voting for Mike Bloomberg, I might suggest that that’s a little like the chickens voting for Colonel Sanders!”).
Wrapping up, Ferrer told the kids that, “Your vote will decide this election,” but after a brief Q&A with the media, it was Dean who stuck around to shake hands with students.