CHARLOTTE — It is Tuesday night on Tryon Street, and rain is falling, um, liberally, as if an unseen force is equalizing the weather disadvantages allotted to the respective conventions of the nation’s Republicans and Democrats.
Through the downpour walks a bearded man dressed in black-and-white 19th century splendor, his stovepipe hat elongating his already tall frame.
For a moment, Charlotte, forget President Obama; a legend walks among us.
Well, Sam Miller wearing his Abraham Lincoln disguise. His face is too round for an exact fit, missing the solemn gauntness of the man who saved the Union. And he is not campaigning for himself.
The sign he carries would make a Tea Partier blanch: “Republicans for Obama.” It’s as if the actual Honest Abe were campaigning for Stephen A. Douglas.
Charlotte-native Miller says when he heard the convention was coming to Charlotte, he had an inspiration.
“I was sitting around drinking in the living room with the family one night, and we were throwing around ideas and jokes,” Miller says. “I decided, Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican, and so this kind of writes itself.”
Miller says he has nothing but respect for Obama and the Democrats, but most of his political ideals tilt to the right, such as the way the GOP handles the economy and champions the free market.
“When I see this convention here in Charlotte, I’m thinking about how the business owners and the merchants are going to make more money,” Miller says. “I mean, they’re going to make an extra buck or two this convention, even if the taxpayers had to pay a little extra to support all the preparations and work.”
While he was getting a mostly positive reception — several police officers asked to have their photos taken with him — the idea of Republicans supporting Obama was a hard sell this week.
“I’m not actually trying to change anyone’s mind,” he says, sounding Lincolnesque in his reasonable approach. “I just thought it would be a good way to get attention.”
Before Miller can finish another sentence about how the Democrats and Republicans aren’t that far apart on many issues, another person shouts, “Hey, Abe! Can I get a photo?”
Miller obliges with a grin, but quickly changes his expression to a more stoic Lincoln for the actual photograph.
“This has gotten more reaction than I ever thought it would,” he says as he hoists his sign again. “I think I’ll probably walk around more the rest of the days and then try to attend Obama’s speech on Thursday.”
As Miller makes his way down Tryon Street, one more passerby calls out: “Hey, Lincoln, stay out of theaters.”
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