From Across Region, 10,000 Rally for Obama
Friday, June 6, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama launched his general election campaign for president in Virginia yesterday, rolling up his sleeves and rallying families, college students and people playing hooky from work to help him "win this election and change the course of history."
The presumptive Democratic nominee drew more than 10,000 people to a late afternoon rally at Nissan Pavilion and spent the morning courting voters in coal country at a town hall meeting in southwest Virginia. Last night, Obama delayed a trip home to Chicago to meet with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In Virginia, Obama delivered his standard stump speech at both campaign stops, but the events were weighted with significance, a reminder of one of his biggest primary wins and his determination to compete in Virginia and other traditional Republican strongholds in November.
The senator from Illinois noted the symbolism of the first African American presidential nominee appealing for support in a former Confederate state.
"This crowd reflects what was done 40 years ago to perfect this union," Obama told the Nissan crowd, referring to achievements of the civil rights movement. "And now, 40 years later, that same sense of urgency is demanded."
Die-hard Obama supporters and undecided voters converged on the amphitheater in Prince William County three hours before the candidate was scheduled to take the stage at 6 p.m. State and local transportation officials had braced for a major backup on Interstate 66, but traffic was like that of a normal evening rush.
The crowd moved smoothly and quickly through the security checkpoints into the amphitheater. No one was turned away.
Obama was escorted to the stage by the state's top Democratic elected officials, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and U.S. Sen. James Webb, who have been mentioned as possible running mates.
The crowd interrupted Webb as he introduced Obama, shouting, "Yes, we can!"
"Thank you, Virginia!" Obama said as he took the stage. He peeled off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. "This is a good-looking crowd here. And it's fired up . . . "
"Ready to go!" the crowd roared back, invoking the candidate's signature call-and-response chant.
Obama thanked Webb, saying, "If you're in a fight, and we are going to be in a fight, you want Jim Webb to have your back."