Page 3 of 3   <      

Obama Formally Launches Presidential Bid

Sen. Barack Obama speaks to a crowd gathered on the lawn of the old State Capital Building in Springfield, Illinois. Obama announced to the crowd that he would seek the Democratic nomination for President.
Sen. Barack Obama speaks to a crowd gathered on the lawn of the old State Capital Building in Springfield, Illinois. Obama announced to the crowd that he would seek the Democratic nomination for President. (Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)

Critical of Bush's presidency and what he said are the unmet challenges, Obama decried the cynicism that he said pervades the political process and called on those disillusioned by a culture of special interests and grid-locked politics to join him in his campaign.

"The time for that politics is over," he said. "It is through. It is time to turn the page, right here, right now." The line was met by enthusiastic chants of "Obama, Obama."

The crowd was filled with committed Obama supporters who lifted signs -- "Barack the Vote" was among the more creative -- and cheered in waves as the candidate spoke.

But not everyone had made up their minds.

Shanna Shipman, 27, brought her two young daughters from the town of Pekin, near Peoria, to hear Obama even though she fiercely opposes him on abortion. "I will scream from the mountaintops that I am pro-life," said Shipman, who did not vote for Obama for Senate but is considering him for president now. But, she said: "This is history in the making. I am certainly supporting his spirit."

A U.S. Marine in full military dress, who gave his name as Thomas, stood at the edge of the crowd taking pictures. He did not want to give his last name, for fear that his military bosses would take his participation with an anti-war candidate as a protest. But he said of Obama after the speech: "He's got a lot of great ideas and plans for the future."

Even more enthusiastic were several dozen students from the Illinois School for the Deaf, who drove from the town of Jacksonville to see the announcement. Through a sign language translator, Britney Williams, 17, described herself as a huge Obama fan. "I liked when he said we had to work together," she said.

Dan Hankiewicz, and his wife, Rebecca, both state government workers in Springfield, said it was Obama's timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, by early 2008, that impressed them most. Although they said the show of support on Saturday morning reflected the senator's overwhelming popularity in Illinois, Hankiewicz added: "I think the word is going to spread quickly. He's got that rock star quality."

Although his campaign infrastructure is still being built -- his advisers only moved into their Chicago headquarters last week -- the event had many of the trappings of a campaign that has been building for months, including a new Web site launched in conjunction with the announcement.

Obama's new logo, a blue letter "O" that evokes a rising sun, appeared on buttons and t-shirts. There were traditional campaign trappings as well, from the red-white-and-blue bunting that hung from the windows and groups of volunteers and advisers who spent the preceding day hammering together a set and stage for the speech.


<          3

© 2007 The Washington Post Company