Democrats Hope To Benefit From Stewart's Rally

What started out as a comedy event appealing to moderation and reason has been appropriated as a rallying cry for liberal activists. Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" takes place Saturday in the nation's capital and is spawning political events elsewhere.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Mary Louise Kelly in for Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And Im Steve Inskeep, good morning.

Some of the news on this final weekend of the political campaign may center on the National Mall here in Washington.

KELLY: Thats because comedian Jon Stewart is holding what he calls a "Rally to Restore Sanity." He says it is nonpartisan. But liberals and progressive groups are seizing what they see as an opportunity.

We begin with NPR's David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Arianna Huffington, founder of the liberal online Huffington Post, says she's arranged for 200 buses to take people to Stewart's ostensibly satiric "Rally for Sanity."

Liberal groups say there's good reason to take advantage of the event.

Mr. JEREMY PITTMAN (Deputy Field Director, Human Rights Campaign): Well, surprise-surprise, we have big elections next week, just a few days away.

FOLKENFLIK: Jeremy Pittman is the deputy field director for Human Rights Campaign, that gay advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. It's throwing open its headquarters to members coming to town for the Stewart event, and encouraging visitors to make calls for favored candidates.

Mr. PITTMAN: It's hundreds of races, but we are focused on and prioritizing probably a couple of dozen.

FOLKENFLIK: Democrats consider tomorrow's crowd a target-rich environment, according to Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for the Democrats' Organizing for America Project. She says the party will be trying to recruit volunteers for last-minute get out the vote efforts.

Ms. LYNDA TRAN (Spokeswoman, Organizing for America Project): People who have vocalized that they're going to be heading to the rally are generally progressive, and they're going to be a lot of young people who are out there, who have certainly had a really strong relationship with the president.

FOLKENFLIK: Around the country, liberals are setting up their own parties to watch on television. But some people are taking their cues directly from Stewart, rather than taking ideological sides.

Kira Havens(ph), a 27-year-old genetics researcher at Colorado State University, has arranged a spinoff event to occur tomorrow in Denver's Civic Center Park. Twenty-nine hundred people have signed up on Facebook to attend.

Ms. KIRA HAVENS (Genetics Researcher, Colorado State University): The message is that we need to take it down a notch. The hyperbole, and the name-calling, and the inability to have a discussion without resorting to either of those tactics is really undermining the way politics is done in America, and the way anything can get done.

FOLKENFLIK: She says candidates from all parties are welcome. But in Washington, Democrats and their liberal allies see a chance to rally the faithful, not just the self-professed sane.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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