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Obama…back in business?

Posted on: August 30, 2007

Obama fires up crowd in Lexington: “

By Ryan Alessi

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wrapped his message for change in his signature high-octane style yesterday, delighting those in the overflow crowd, many of whom came to see whether the Illinois senator is the real deal.

By the end of his 30-minute speech at the Lexington Center, Obama had the nearly 2,000 people chanting ‘fired up’ and ‘ready to go’ — two of his campaign’s rally cries, which he said he borrowed from a city councilwoman in South Carolina.

At several points Obama, who last night ended his 12-day U.S. tour through 60 cities, reiterated that the run for the White House is more than just disagreeing with what’s been done in the past.

‘The reason you’re here, I’m willing to bet, is not just because you’re against something. It’s easy to be against something,’ he said. ‘But the reason you’re here and the reason why I think we’re attracting these tremendous crowds is people want to be for something.’

Obama’s visit to Lexington — his second stop in Kentucky in six months — comes as Illinois’ junior U.S. senator fends off questions about whether he’s experienced enough to lead the nation.

His chief rival in the 2008 Democratic primary, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, has played up the experience issue. On Thursday she touched on it with controversial remarks in New Hampshire, saying that another terrorist attack would boost Republicans’ standing and that she is the Democrat best positioned to counter that.

Obama, 46, didn’t respond to that yesterday. In a campaign stop Saturday, he said, ‘We need to stop using terrorism as a wedge issue.’

Instead, he said that experience is meaningless without ‘good judgment.’ He named Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as examples, drawing laughs and applause from the partisan crowd.

‘I’ve been in Washington long enough to know that Washington needs to change,’ Obama said, before easing his remarks back to his main theme of unity.

‘I’m humble enough to know I can’t do it by myself. I’ve got to have you with me,’ he said.

That was a compelling statement, said Alice Dehner, 61, of Lexington.

Dehner, who once worked for Republican President Richard Nixon’s campaign, came into last night’s event curious and uncommitted. She said she left impressed.

‘He ended up providing more substance than I thought he would,’ she said.

Specifically, Obama talked about the government investing in creation of an electronic record-keeping system. That could save as much as $150 billion, which could be used to lower health care costs.

State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard — a surgeon and running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Beshear — was seated on risers behind Obama and stood to applaud that line.

On education, Obama mentioned increasing teachers’ pay and rolling back some testing requirements.

He said the country also needs a forward-thinking energy policy, and he alluded to his disapproval of the coal mining process of mountaintop removal.

‘We’re tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuels,’ he said, sparking loud applause.

As for the war in Iraq, he said, the choices are between ‘bad options and worse options.’

Still, he said, his goal would be to remove troops from Iraq and refocus them to fight al-Qaida. Obama also defended one of his remarks from earlier this summer in which he said he first would try to negotiate with leaders of hostile nations.

‘A strong person and a strong country is never afraid to talk to our enemies,’ he said. ‘I’m not afraid to negotiate with anyone.’

Republicans, however, dismissed Obama’s positions as being out of step with Kentucky, which voted for George W. Bush in the last two presidential races.

‘The more time Barack Obama spends in Kentucky touting his liberal proposals to raise taxes for working families and choke off funding for our troops, the more likely voters in this state will re-elect a Republican president in 2008,’ Republican National Committee spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson said in a statement.

But yesterday, at least, Central Kentuckians leapt at the chance to hear what Obama had to say. About 500 more people than expected paid the campaign their $25 to attend.

Robert Webb, 56, Christian Adair, 34, and Karah Sutton, 19, arrived about 3:30 p.m. for the 5:30 event and were among the first 10 in line.

After Obama’s speech, all three said the performance surpassed expectations.

‘He’s idealistic without being unrealistic,’ said Sutton, summing up her attraction to Obama.

His style is unlike that of any politician she’s heard — almost like that of a charismatic minister. ‘Not that it was preachy or religious,’ she said, ‘but that it was inspiring.’

Read the full article at the Lexington Herald-Leader.

(Via Obama Press.)

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