First, Kansas City Mayor Sly James spoke.
Then it was Russ Carnahan, the Democratic candidate for Missouri lieutenant governor, and Judy Baker, the candidate for state treasurer.
What followed next at Congressman Emanuel Cleaver’s campaign headquarters at 31st and Gilham Saturday afternoon might best be described as a pregnant pause. No one seemed to know who was to speak next.
Jason Kander, the U.S. Senate candidate, broke the impasse.
“I”ll go,” he said.
The crowd laughed, and then Kander offered some candor.
“What you just saw were...people who don’t want to talk after Rev. Cleaver,” he said.
Following the rhetorically gifted Cleaver, who’s also a Methodist minister, has become a place no Democrat wants to go, and Saturday proved to be another example of precisely that.
So it was decided right there that Cleaver would go last following Kander and Chris Koster, the Democratic candidate for governor.
When the microphone got to him, Cleaver lit up the audience with a story that Muhammad Ali once told him about how he survived his epic fight against George Foreman, the feared heavyweight champ at the time. Ali told himself he had just one more round to go each time another round ended.
That became Cleaver’s refrain. With just 10 days to go before the election, he exhorted the crowd, each day has to count. Democrats should take them one at a time and pound on doors and make phone calls.
“One more round,” he shouted. “One more round.”
The crowd picked up the chant, just as crowds have so many times over the years at Democratic rallies featuring Cleaver.
Saturday’s gathering before a respectable, but hardly overwhelming throng, was aimed primarily at boosting the fortunes of Kander and Koster who are thought to be locked in tight races with their GOP rivals.
Koster said his aim is to “try to bring this state together again.” The Capitol, he added, was built as a place where people go to cooperate with each other.
He insisted that the coalition he’s pulled together is the “broadest” for a candidate for Missouri governor in half a century.
That coalition includes some groups that typically back Republicans, such as the National Rifle Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau. Both have endorsed Koster.
Cleaver noted that developments over the past 24 hours that included the news that FBI Director James Comey had reopened his investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails was “not good, was not helpful.”
He called Comey’s decision a violation of a long-standing practice of the FBI not to engage publicly in politically significant cases so close to federal elections.
“I think he’s trying to protect himself down the road,” Cleaver said of Comey.