Saturday, December 29, 2007

Turnout despite big snowstorm impresses Obama
By Gregg Hennigan

Brian Ray/The GazetteDemocratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks to a gym full of people during a campaign event Friday at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville.

CORALVILLE — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama doesn't appear to have to worry about his supporters staying at home if bad weather strikes Iowa on caucus night.

Despite a snowstorm that made travel difficult, an upbeat crowd of more than 900 people turned out Friday for a campaign stop at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville for the senator from Illinois.

"This is remarkable. ... What an unbelievable crowd," Obama said.

The snow didn't discourage Obama supporter Roberta Payne, 66, of Iowa City, from attending. In fact, this is the second time this month she's braved inclement weather to hear Obama speak.

"I went to see him in Cedar Rapids in an ice storm that was 10 times worse than this," she said.

Payne said Obama had won her support in part because she believes he will bring change to Washington.

The promise of change has been a major theme in Obama's campaign, and the Coralville stop came on the third day of his "Stand for Change" tour of Iowa leading up to Thursday's caucuses.

He repeatedly hit on the subject of change Friday, calling for an end to the war in Iraq, decreasing the influence of lobbyists, shifting the government's attitude on the environment and improving the nation's schools.

"I'm running because I believe that we're in a defining moment of our history, and I thought about what Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) called 'the fierce urgency of now,'" Obama said.

Obama also brought to mind King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech with a series of statements beginning with, "I believe."

"I believe that this is the moment, that this is our time right now," Obama said.

Obama is in a tight three-way race for the caucus lead with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Obama railed against what he called the current political atmosphere of extreme partisanship, saying he wanted to unite Americans of all stripes. He said that while some have knocked his perceived lack of experience, the "real gamble" is to continue doing the same things with the "same folks" over and over again.

"With this election, it's time to turn the page," he said.

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