This story was written by Elizabeth Harrison, Montana Kaimin
University of Montana students and the Missoula community did not leave an indoor ticket to spare for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's Saturday morning rally at the Adams Center.
The free indoor tickets were gone by 11 a.m. Thursday, according to Obama's local campaign spokesperson Matt Chandler. Chandler and other campaign officials would not confirm how many tickets were given out.
Dahlberg Arena, which the campaign announced will be filled to capacity, seats 7,500 inside for basketball games.
According to a press release Thursday evening, Obama's camp said due to overwhelming demand, they will provide an outdoor feed of the rally for people who missed out on indoor tickets. Tickets are not required for the outdoor feed, and seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Most UM students, like junior accounting major Karen Simpson, obtained free indoor tickets through Obama's Web site.
"I heard about it last night," she said. "My roommate came into my room screaming and waving her arms."
Simpson, who said she has a big interest in politics right now, heard the rumors of a possible Obama visit, but nothing confirmed.
"I'm trying to decide between Hillary and Obama," she said about which Democratic candidate she will vote for in the June 3 primary. Simpson said attending the rally will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I think the presidential candidates are starting to realize even states like Wyoming and Montana do (matter). The University has a strong Democratic population. Students from all over Montana go here - (it's a) strong concentration of a target market," she said.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement issued a fact sheet about young voters in Montana during the midterm election year 2006. The report found a surge in young eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29. In 2002, the number of votes cast by this population was 30,000, while the number of citizens in this age range eligible to vote in 2006 was 125,000.
UM sophomore Mark Thompson said he isn't sure whom he will vote for.
"I don't know much about his (Obama's) political stance," he said. "I'm interested to hear his opinion. Thompson said he likes Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, but he does not like Obama's competition, Sen. Hillary Clinton.
He said he thinks it's good that Obama is reaching out to students in Missoula.
"Him coming all the way out here - it shows that he cares," Thompson said. Thompson's friend asked him Thursday morning if he wanted to go to the rally. He said he hopes to snag one of her three tickets.
Jim Lopach, professor and chair of UM's Department of Politcal Science, may have to utilize the campaign's overflow space. He told the Kaimin Thursday that he is on the waiting list for a ticket to the rally.
"It's always a big deal, but Obama is bigger than most," Lopach said about presidential candidates visiting Missoula. He called Obama "a very distinctive candidate," citing Obama's contrast with President George W. Bush and Sen. Clinton, along with his charisma and biracial background.
Lopach said now that the Democratic candidates are paying attention to Montana delegates, voters hope they will begin to address important western concerns such as energy development, water issues and states' rights.
© 2008 Montana Kaimin via U-WIRE