Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Howard Dean rallies Obama supporters in Renton"

Seattle Times:
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told Barack Obama supporters Saturday that Washington needs a huge Obama victory to "carry" into office Democrats whose wins are less certain.
Specifically, he mentioned Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is in a tight race with Republican challenger Dino Rossi, and Democrat Darcy Burner, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District.

Dean, a 2004 presidential candidate and former governor of Vermont, gave an impassioned speech to a crowd of Democrats packed into the Renton Carpenters Hall. The crowd cheered madly as Dean told them the McCain campaign appeals to the "worst in human beings" while Obama appeals to the best.

An Obama win is almost assured in Washington state, according to polls. But Democrats hope an Obama landslide could sweep into office Democrats farther down the ballot.

Washington State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said Dean's visit just shows that Democrats are getting nervous.

"I'm not surprised the Democrats are growing more and more concerned about the state of Washington," he said. "I'm not surprised at all that they are realizing that their previous assumption that this would be a state that would be an automatic win for Barack Obama and that he would carry on his coattails other candidates down the ballot was misplaced."

U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, marveled at the huge crowd Saturday — at least 400 people packed wall to wall and spilling out the doors — and said the national party couldn't ignore the "energy" Obama had ignited.

But he said a high-profile speaker like Dean could help motivate volunteers to campaign for other Democratic candidates, too.

"I think it shows that Barack Obama cares about Washington in a lot of ways," he said.

A vendor hawked Obama T-shirts and ball caps on the union-hall lawn as supporters waited in line to get in. Inside, organizers coached attendees about how to canvass their legislative districts.

Jonathan Taylor, 40, a postal manager who lives in Renton, said he hasn't volunteered for a campaign since college, when he worked on Bill Clinton's first presidential bid. But he has been spending about eight hours a week campaigning for Obama.

"I'm inspired by this campaign," he said. "Putting people first instead of country first is really the way to go."

In his speech, Dean appealed to a blue-collar crowd, a demographic underscored by striking Machinists at Boeing signing in for picket-line duty in the hall's parking lot. He criticized U.S. Sen. John McCain's role in making concessions to a European company competing with Boeing to build Air Force refueling tankers. He drew a huge cheer when he said, "John McCain is a job-killer in Washington state."

And he said Obama would cut taxes for middle-class Americans, asking, "Anybody here make more than $250,000 a year?" No one raised a hand, so he said: "then Barack Obama wants to cut your taxes."

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