Supporters and admirers of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama braved long lines and cold weather to see the candidate they hope will win the Democratic nomination for the presidency at Fifth Third Arena Monday, Feb. 25. In addition to an Obama speech, they got good news for his campaign: the surprise endorsement of superdelegate and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.
Mallory announced his decision to endorse Obama while introducing the presidential candidate to the audience.
"There are a lot of similarities between Barack's efforts to become president and my efforts to become mayor of Cincinnati," Mallory said. "People said I didn't have enough experience. People said I didn't know how things work. People said that I was only offering words."
As a superdelegate, Mallory is automatically invited to serve as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August. Superdelegates are not required to pledge their support for any candidate until the convention, when the Democratic nominee is selected.
Prior to his remarks, Obama thanked Mayor Mallory for his endorsement, and then stressed the importance of voting early.
"In Chicago, we vote early and often," joked Obama. "We don't want you to do that. But we do want you to vote early."
Obama encouraged his supporters to vote early so they could volunteer to participate in campaign activities on March 4, the date of the Ohio Democratic primary.
Buses paid for by Obama for America waited outside to take eligible voters to the Hamilton County Board of Elections, located at 824 Broadway St.
During his speech, Obama spoke about his campaign themes of hope and change, but stressed the importance of hard work to achieve his goals.
"I'll fight for you," Obama said. "I want to fight for you. I want to take this country in a new direction. I want to roll up my sleeves and get to work making your lives and the lives of your children a little bit better. But I can't do it by myself. I need you to believe that change is possible."
Obama did not address comments made by Hillary Clinton during her campaign stop at Cincinnati State University on Feb. 23. During her visit, Clinton angrily admonished the Obama campaign for distributing flyers attacking her position on the North American Free Trade Agreement and universal health care.
Almost 12,000 people attended the campaign rally, according to barackobama.com.
Prior to the rally, long lines awaited would-be attendees. Lines for the event began accumulating as early as 7 a.m., and snaked all the way down Corry Boulevard to Jefferson Avenue.
Judy David, 53, a postal worker from Blue Ash, waited more than four hours to get inside, but said she would do it all over again.
"Obama is the one person that can truly put the word 'united' back into these United States," David said.
Several students shared her enthusiasm.
"I am so excited about this campaign," said first-year UC Clermont education student April Sentieri. "I feel like I'm a part of something. I feel like this campaign is going to change everything. It's my future it's effecting, so I should be here to witness all of the changes going down."
Sentieri said she has already done volunteer work for the campaign, and plans to canvass during the final run-up to the primary election.
"I think a lot of his policies on education and merit pay," Sentieri said.
Others gave more emotional reasons for supporting Obama.
"I don't even want to start on Hillary Clinton, because I think she's an idiot and she'll make bad decisions in the White House," said second-year early childhood education student Kristen Vice. "I think if Barack Obama is elected, he'll bring peace because a ot more world leaders will work with him."
Earlier in the day, Obama interacted with a panel of five retired women of mixed race and age at a press only news conference at a Cincinnati Museum Center conference room in Union Terminal.
"Preserving Social Security is not enough," Obama said. "We have to encourage saving."
He discussed optional automatic workplace retirement plans and said 80 percent of Americans have signaled they would enroll in his retirement plan, which includes full disclosure of pension-funded investments.
"Working families are a top priority," Obama said. "Millions of Americans depend on their pension to get by."
After talking to the panel of retirees, he said by 2042 citizens are going to see a lot of pressure in terms of Social Security.
"You will begin to see Social Security at 75 cents to the dollar," Obama said. "We also have to change our bankruptcy laws so its not as easy for companies to file when CEO's are still getting bonuses."
Obama said half of the individuals who file bankruptcy in the United States do so because of illness. He said bankruptcy laws are written for creditors and banks, rather than average citizens.
After listening to one woman's troubles finding work, he brought up proposing laws that deter discrimination on the basis of age.
"The recurring theme we've touched on today, is none of you have thought you'd be in this position at this age," Obama said. "All of you have done what you're supposed to do."
Comparing Democratic health care plans to Republican's, he said there were "relatively modest" differences between his and Hillary's health care plans.
Obama closed with remarks about ending the war in Iraq and his concerns about the economy.
"Frankly, we're going to have to look at the economy," Obama said. "I'll be honest with you; we've dug ourselves in to a hole. The next president is going to inherit a mess."
The News Record reporter Mike McQueary contributed to this story.
© 2008 The News Record via U-WIRE