RALEIGH -- Even with afternoon storms that soaked and blew through the Triangle on Thursday, a crowd of more than 500 showed up at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh to hear conservative politico Michelle Malkin pick apart President Barack Obama's record.
Americans for Prosperity, a Virginia-based conservative advocacy group, organized the event as part of a 16-stop bus tour across North Carolina, called the "Obama's Failing Agenda Bus tour" that started earlier this week in Charlotte and ended here.
AFP North Carolina director, Dallas Woodhouse, said the bus will also roll through other swing states, but on Thursday, a couple hours ahead of the president's address to the Democratic National Convention, it served as a backdrop for Malkin and conservative radio host Tony Katz to preach to the choir.
If not vinyl-wrapped with the tour's name and an array of conservative talking points, the bus would like something from the campaign of a well-funded politician, or maybe one belonging to an aging rock band on tour.
Woodhouse led off by poking fun at the change of venue for Obama's speech accepting his nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for president – Democrat officials cited weather concerns as the reason for the change – but Woodhouse said to laughs that it’s been known to rain on summer nights in North Carolina. He gave ponchos to people in the front row.
"You don't know how dangerous it'll be out there tonight," he said. "We didn't have to move our event because of attendance concerns."
With every seat taken and a crowd standing to hear Malkin, she told the crowd that those on the left "don't control the narrative anymore," and she spelled out a narrative of her own that has served as a rallying cry for conservatives this election cycle.
She railed against the government-backed Solyndra boondoggle, hit the president's record on spending and the economy, and pointed to the burgeoning national debt. The media was slammed. So was Obamacare. Even though disdain of Democrats was palpable, Malkin railed against President George W. Bush's support of TARP and banking bailouts. The crowd ate it all up.
"Big government Republicans joined hands with those people and helped get us in this mess," she told the crowd to cheers.
Aaron Sultan of Rossville has six kids, and he showed up in part because of Malkin and in part because he's fired up about debt and spending.
“I’m worried about the future my kids will have,” Sultan said.
That sentiment was common among attendees, and Malkin said it's why there was a high turnout in Raleigh and around the state.
"People are concerned, and they're fired up," she said in an interview. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and that's what the bus tour is about."
What exactly the facts are is ambiguous, but people are undeniably fired up. More than 100 watch parties were organized by the Obama campaign around North Carolina at the same time Malkin was making the crowd swoon.
Shaneequa Vereen is a 21-year-old psychology major at North Carolina State University. She was among those left on the outside looking in when the president's acceptance speech was moved to a smaller venue.
But she lands on the opposite side and prefers the narrative counter to the one offered by Malkin and AFP.
The unemployment rate "is bad, nobody's going to disagree with that," Vereen said at a speech watching party on campus. "It took more than four years to get here, and it's going to take more than four years to get out. Republicans can pick apart Obama's record, say he hasn't done anything, but it's just not true."