They Shall Return

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Well, the Democrats have finished up their show in Denver. Pretty powerful speech to wrap up by Barack Obama. Or should we call him Reverend Obama?

He really had it going last night. In him and Joe Biden, the Democrats have the ticket they think can win.

Next week it's the Republicans' turn. They'll be in St. Paul.

As of this morning they're confident they have a formidable ticket too, John McCain going off the board to pick Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate.

She's as new to most of us as Biden is familiar. So the undecided voters –- and the Hillary Clinton supporters looking for a new home –- will need some time to size her up.

Beyond the news-media shorthand of maverick, pro-life, conservative. And inexperienced -- she has less than two years on the job as governor.

But this spot is called LA Observed after all, so I try to focus on what it all means for Los Angeles -- and for those of us who live here.

Politics aside –- on that everybody's mileage may vary -– I'm already cringing at the thought of all the new traffic jams that are about to be created.

This has been an unusually blessed summer across much of the L.A. basin. Even on the 405, I've enjoyed several surprise afternoons of no blockage at all. On a normal day I can wait ten minutes just to get on the freeway.

Now, though, the candidates for president are going to mess it all up. They'll be coming back through to look for votes or, more important, to shake a new crop of $2,300 checks out of exclusive backyard parties in the hills above Sunset Boulevard.

Most of the big donors in the Holmby -- Bel Air -– Brentwood –- Malibu crescent already gave the max in the primary. They tapped their private clubs and their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter networks to do the same.

But all those Hillary Rodham Clinton givers from the primary can start over with Obama. McCain has the same opportunity to go after the bigwigs who wrote checks for Romney and the other non-winners.

So that means a fresh cycle of cocktail receptions, with VIP after-dinners for the rainmakers who bring in the truly big bucks. The Times will dutifully mention the celebrities who get in.

Good government websites will crunch the numbers by zip code and occupation of the donors.

Don't believe the spin that all of Hollywood's evil cash goes to Democrats. McCain wants their money too, and is putting on a full court press to get it.

We the daily commuters of Southern California will be the losers.

For the fall sprint to the finish the candidates travel with full motorcades of media, friends and aides-de-camp. Secret Service protection means that, in most cases, entire freeways are shut down to clear congestion and let the fleet of tinted-window SUV's and media buses pass.

At crucial junctions like where the 405 meets the Santa Monica Freeway, I've seen the connector bridges and on-ramps sit perfectly still for ten or fifteen minutes –- with the unintended consequences rippling through the already delicate Westside traffic balance for long after.

For a while there it didn't look like we would even get the benefit of seeing the candidates stop for rallies and actually talk with voters here. Polls had Obama so far ahead in California that there wasn't much point in him spending a lot of time on our particular campaign trail.

But the polls have tightened up. Some Republicans are suggesting that McCain has a chance here and should schedule more California events.

If nothing else, it would be good to see some of the candidates in the flesh and not just on the tube. Or whizzing past while we sit in traffic.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.