Obama Packs Kohl Center

This story was written by Tom Schalmo, Badger Herald
Coming off of victories in the Potomac primaries, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., visited Madison Tuesday night to gear up for next week's Wisconsin primary.

Obama easily won primaries in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. and used a Kohl Center platform to fire up the crowd for Tuesday's big primary in Wisconsin.

With hundreds of local and national media members in attendance, the more than 19,000 people who filled the Kohl Center watched CNN on the projection screen and cheered as the results from the Potomac primaries came in.

"Today, the change we see swept through the Chesapeake and over the Potomac," Obama said.

With Virginia and Maryland under his belt, Obama has won eight states in a row.

"Next Tuesday here in Wisconsin, we're going to make it nine," Gov. Jim Doyle, who has endorsed Obama, said while introducing the senator.

According to Public Policy Polling figures released Tuesday, Obama holds a wide lead in Wisconsin over rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. The poll showed 50 percent of state voters behind Obama, with 39 percent for Clinton.

Obama's common themes of change and hope dominated his speech Tuesday.

"It's time to turn a page and start a new chapter," Obama said. "We need a new direction in this country. Everywhere I go, I run into people who can't wait another day for change."

With Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cementing himself as the frontrunner of the Republican race for the nomination, Obama criticized him for his stances on the war in Iraq.

"When I am the nominee, I will offer a clear choice," Obama said. "John McCain won't be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq because I opposed it from the start."

Obama added McCain saying United States troops could be in Iraq for 100 years is "reason enough not to give him four years in the White House."

Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, attended the Kohl Center event after endorsing Obama last fall.

Hintz said the race between Clinton and Obama will be very close next week.

"I think it's going to be a tight race, but I'll do whatever I can to help him out," Hintz said.

Hintz added the more exposure people have of Obama, the better his odds will be.

Obama also picked up the endorsement of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz Tuesday. Cieslewicz previously endorsed former Sen. John Edwards, who dropped out of the race earlier this month.

Oliver Kiefer, chair of UW College Democrats, also said it remains too early to tell who the Democratic frontrunner is in Wisconsin but added the picture "will shape up on Saturday and Sunday."

Kiefer said Clinton will likely stay in Wisconsin after her appearance in Milwaukee Saturday all the way through the Tuesday primary. The College Democrats will not endorse a specific candidate and will support whoever the nominee is.

On the Republican side, McCain and former Gov. Mike Huckabee both announced plans to travel to the state in the coming days.

Huckabee will stop in Madison Friday morning at 9:45 a.m. at the Concourse Hotel while McCain will make stops in Oshkosh, La Crosse and Milwaukee throughout the day Friday.

On the Republican side of the Public Policy Polling data, McCain holds a 53-32 advantage over the underdog Huckabee.

Obama's rally did meet one brief distraction: During his speech, two men held up signs reading "911 Truth Now" and "WTC 7." Officials escorted the two out about 10 minutes into the speech.
© 2008 Badger Herald via U-WIRE
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