Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may not be a rock star, but he can draw a bigger crowd than most musicians.
Despite the 85-degree heat, Philadelphia residents came out in record numbers to hear Obama speak at Independence Mall Friday night. According to the Obama campaign, the rally drew a crowd of 35,000 - his largest so far.
Obama trails his opponent, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, by 5.6 percentage points in the polls, according to RealClearPolitics averages. However, he has made considerable gains in the past few weeks, narrowing Clinton's nearly 20-point lead to the single digits.
In the shadow of Independence Hall, Obama spoke about the building's history and its role in the creation of America.
"On this beautiful night, it is important for us to remember the history behind this site," he said. "It was over 200 years ago that a group of patriots gathered in this city to do something that no one in the world believed they could do."
He spoke about the Declaration of Independence and then said America could "declare independence" from conventional Washington-style politics.
Obama's speech focused on his desire to fundamentally change American politics, but he did not address specific issues.
He praised Clinton as "a tenacious opponent and a committed public servant," stressing the importance of Democratic unity in the fall.
However, Obama said Clinton's campaign message "comes down to this - we can't really change the say-anything, do-anything, special interest-driven game in Washington, so we might as well choose a candidate who really knows how to play it."
Obama also attacked presumptive Republican nominee John McCain for his continuation of Bush administration policies, saying he and McCain have "deep differences" in their ideas on how to lead the country.
In response to the questions asked at last week's Democratic debate at the National Constitution Center, Obama said the primary is too full of "distractions."
ABC moderators George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson faced criticism after Wednesday's debate for spending the first half of their questioning focusing on various campaign missteps and non-policy issues, such as why Obama does not wear a flag pin.
But Obama said voters needed to shift politics away from those "distractions" in this election season.
"This year we can't afford the same old politics," he said. "That's the decision you'll face on Tuesday."
Obama called for those voting in tomorrow's election to "help bring about the change that we need right now."
Penn students said this need for change was in part why they attended the rally.
"I don't like the way politicians antagonize each other and tend to be out for themselves and their own power and position," said Law student Dave Gardner. "I think Obama cuts through that . ... He's above the antagonism that I think pervades Washington."
Medical student Ben Kozyak agreed.
"I think it's going to be a revolutionary campaign and a revolutionary presidency," he said.
© 2008 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE