Posted Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, at 5:33 PM
SPRINGFIELD, Va. -- It was a stock phrase loaded with extra-special irony. "My Democratic friends," said Artur Davis, had underrated Paul Ryan.
But Davis is an apostate. He left the Democratic party this year, completing a journey that began, at the latest, when he started running right to become credible in Alabama's gubernatorial election. He has Republican friends now. In a seven-minute speech, introducing Ken Cuccinelli so he could introduce Paul Ryan, Davis drew cheers almost as loud as anything the veep nominee could hear.
"I was asked by one of those very clever anchors," said Davis, "was there any issue that Paul Ryan and I disagreed on? I had to think about it. And I remembered one day, outside the floor of the House, hearing Paul try to convince me that Led Zeppelin were the greatest band of all time. I'm a Genesis man!"
Davis has been speaking about his conversion for weeks; the only new question I could think to ask him, in a week when I thought so much about prog, was about Genesis. Was he a Peter Gabriel man or a Phil Collins man?
"Absolutely Phil Collins," said Davis, "because 'In the Air Tonight' is the best song of the last 42 years."
"What about 'Whole Lotta Love?'" asked Yahoo! News's Chris Moody.
"That's a good song, but they're not the greatest band. Genesis is the greatest band."
It was a little respite from what turned into nearly half an hour of ropeline campaigning -- interviews, handshakes, and photos. Davis defended Ryan's plan from Democratic attacks, repeating the line that the only plan that cuts Medicare is Obamacare. "Everything Congressman Ryan wants to do is with future retirees," said Davis, "and he realizes I agree with him."
Reporters wrapped up and left; Davis kept shaking hands. Two women, who did not come together, asked me the same question: "What's his name?" One heard it as "Arturo," one heard it as "Arthur." After I corrected them, both posed for photos.
"I'd been hearing on the radio about a Democrat congressman who'd switched parties," said Beth Earhart, who'd brought her family to the rally, and got me to snap a portrait of them with Davis. "It's really brave, what he's doing here."