Hundreds of supporters of presidential hopeful Barack Obama turned out Tuesday night for a spirited, late-evening Seattle appearance -- a brief detour from intense campaigning in key states where early caucuses and primaries loom.Seattle Times:
"I know the only reason I'm standing here today is because sometime, somewhere, somebody stood up when it was risky, stood up when it wasn't popular, stood up when it was hard," Obama said in a speech built around a theme that he is the candidate with the courage to bring change. "Standing up with courage and conviction, they somehow managed to change the world.
"We will stand up in this election to bring about the change that won't just win an election, but will transform America," he said wrapping up the speech of nearly 30 minutes.
The event was hosted by a youth-targeting division of Obama's national campaign. Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, had appeared at two other fundraising events Tuesday before heading to the Showbox.
Although much of his speech attacked the Bush Administration, Obama also hinted that he offers boldness lacking in rival and front running Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton. Obama has criticized Clinton for votes supporting the Iraq War.
If chosen as nominee, Obama said Tuesday night, his GOP general election opponent will not be able to accuse Obama of also supporting that conflict. "He won't be able to say I went along with the saber rattling towards Iran because I haven't."
"Being against (President) Bush is easy. The question is not what are you against?; But, what are you for?"
Obama's backers began lining up for the fund-raiser billed as part concert, part "Generation Obama" rally well before doors opened at about 7:30 p.m. at the concert venue Showbox Sodo. Tickets cost most $100; students paid $35. Organizers said they sold more than 1,000 tickets. The event opened with a concert featuring Brad -- Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's side project - and Seattle rockabilly band The Dusty 45s.
The crowd was dominated by young adults and baby boomers. Most said they were already in his camp -- and said they came to see the man who has persuaded them he is the nation's hope for change.
"He's my man," said Sandra Smith, a 27-year-old who is pursuing a Master's in teaching at The Evergreen State College. "He could do really good things for us."
"It seems to me that he's able to find common ground with people. I think that's been missing," Smith said.
Obama has enjoyed a recent surge in national and some local polls in key states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. His campaign is well-funded and gained an extra boost to its already positive momentum when Oprah Winfrey threw her backing and star power behind him last weekend.
That's left the race for the nomination between Obama and Clinton increasingly aggressive.
Nationally, Obama still trails Clinton by a sizeable margin. According to a Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday, Clinton outpolls Obama by more than two to one.
Still, the tightening trend -- especially within states who are among the earliest to select a nominee -- has Clinton worried. The New York Senator and her campaign stepped have stepped up attacks on Obama recently. For example, Clinton portrays Obama as inexperienced. Also, her campaign spent the weekend assailing Obama's health plan in New Hampshire.
Clinton's rap on Obama's experience has not swayed Jamie Wallace, a 19-year-old Seattle University student majoring in Spanish and journalism.
"Sometimes experience is not what you need. Sometimes, it takes a fresh eye to look at issues," said Wallace, who attended Obama's appearance Tuesday after following the politician's work for about three years.
"He presents a hope for our country and that sets him apart. He's not afraid to tell it how it is," added Wallace, who said Obama's on foreign policy stances are particularly bold.
Obama has responded to Clinton's criticisms by saying she has no significant advantage in direct experience. Further, he says, what she has is plagued with divisiveness and bad decisions, such as her votes on Iraq.
That pitch rings true with some who turned out for Tuesday's appearance.
"He isn't one of the good old boys -- yet. But Hillary is. Hillary had to learn to play the good-old-boy game in order to be effective in the Senate," said Carol Meriam, a 68-year-old paralegal from Vashon Island. "He seems to speak his truth -- his truth ...Barack Obama seems to be our last good hope," she said.
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, meanwhile, has largely sidestepped the fracas between Obama and Clinton -- allowing those two to bloody each other while he campaigns on the sidelines.
The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination kicks off in earnest next month, starting with the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3.
It was the second Seattle visit this year for Obama, who has $1 million in donations in Washington, more than any other presidential contender.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama returned to Seattle today to whip up the local "Generation Obama" crowd and scoop up a big pile of money for his presidential campaign.
Obama, riding the momentum of his much-hyped weekend campaign tour with TV megastar Oprah Winfrey, was in Seattle for three scheduled events.
About 1,000 people shelled out $100 — $35 for students — for an event at the Showbox SoDo that was part concert, part pep rally, part fundraiser.
The crowd, somewhat subdued after the music sets, turned electric when Obama came out about 9:30 p.m. tonight.
In his 30-minute speech, Obama painted the 2008 election as a make-or-break moment for the nation. "America, our moment is now," he bellowed.
"I believe there is such a thing as being too late, and that moment is almost upon us," he said.
Obama drew his loudest cheers with some of his stock attacks on the Bush administration.
"The era of Scooter Libby justice and Brownie incompetence and Karl Rove politics will finally be over next year," Obama said.
But he also got in some not-so-subtle digs on other Democratic front-runners, such as Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted to send troops into Iraq.
"When I'm the Democratic nominee, my opponent won't be able to say that I, too, supported the war in Iraq, because I didn't," he said.
Earlier this evening, Obama spoke at a $250- to $1,000-per-plate reception at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. Campaign organizers said they sold more than 500 tickets to the event. He also attended a private fundraiser at the home of Nick Hanauer.
Many people at the Showbox event echoed the theme on a giant banner above the stage: "Change we can believe in."
"I truly believe that he has the charisma to be a world leader," said Annette Ademasu, a state employee from Seattle who was working as a volunteer at the rally. At 48 years old, Ademasu was probably one of the older people there.
Like others, Ademasu said Obama is the first politician she's gotten excited about.
Denielle Aduba, a 28-year-old home designer from Tacoma, said Obama has a "fresh new approach."
"I'm just inspired by him and his life story," Aduba said. "He motivates everyday people to get involved."
Elizabeth Evans, a 20-year-old University of Washington student, waited in line for more than two hours today to see Obama.
"I think he offers something completely new to the country," said Evans, who was studying for a final exam as she waited to get into the Showbox. She said Obama could restore the United States' standing in the world.
"I think if we could elect someone like Barack Obama, people might think twice about this country," Evans said.
Farther back in line, Monique Duluoz of Kent, was wearing an "Obama Mama" T-shirt and a pin that read, "Mommy make the scary Republican go away."
Duluoz said she'd be happy with Obama or Clinton as president.
"I think she's going to take it," Duluoz said of Clinton. "But I'm hoping she'll ask him to be her VP [vice president]. I think together they could really rock it."
The only thing non-Obama was the handful of people carrying signs for Republican candidate Ron Paul outside the Showbox. "Know your enemy," one of them said to a cluster of Obama supporters.
Today's fundraiser was the latest in a series of events staged nationwide by Generation Obama, a branch of the campaign that targets young professionals.
Obama is coming off the biggest weekend of his campaign.
On a minitour Sunday, Winfrey's "We need Obama" speech rallied thousands of supporters at events in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
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