Oprah To Speak At Obama Rally At U. South Carolina

This story was written by Halley Nani, The Daily Gamecock
A campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama featuring guest speaker Oprah Winfrey is expected to draw tens of thousands to University of South Carolina Williams-Brice Stadium Sunday.

The event was moved to Williams-Brice after tickets ran out for the original event location, the Colonial Center, which seats 18,000.

Winfrey will speak about why she supports the Illinois Senator, and why others should, said Amaya Smith, press secretary for Obama's state headquarters.

"Oprah is endorsing Obama, which she has never done for any candidate before," said Mitch Trott, a first-year business student and one of the administrators for the "Gamecocks for Obama" Facebook group. "She's great for pulling people in to hear Obama speak because she is so famous."

Kathryn Witzke, a first-year political science, anthropology and pre-law student, and an administrator for the "Gamecocks for Obama" Facebook group, said Winfrey supports Obama because she knows and supports what he stands for.

"She has the ability to connect with millions of people," Smith said.

Tickets for the event, which were available online, ran out in less than two days. There was still demand for tickets, so Obama headquarters decided to move the event, Smith said.

"We had additional requests, and we wanted to make sure more people could hear Obama's message of change without tickets," she said.

Witzke said that in the first 48 hours, the 18,000 tickets for the Colonial Center were gone, and a waiting list was started.

"That meant that people would have to get to the Colonial Center extraordinarily early and everyone who wanted to see these dynamic individuals would not get that opportunity."

At an Obama speech in Columbia in February, residents lined up hours early for the event, which was at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, then waited longer for Obama to start his speech.

Holding the event at the stadium, which seats more than 80,000, gets rid of the need for tickets. Smith called the transition between the two venues "seamless."

Trott said so far more than 20,000 tickets have been given out for the event at Williams-Brice.

"This will allow for a lot more people to come and hear him talk, which I'm really excited about," Trott said. "This event has the potential to assure Obama a win in South Carolina, if not the other three first primary states."

Smith said that she encourages all USC students interested in hearing Obama's message to attend.

College Republicans are taking advantage of the publicity surrounding the event and the large crowd it will draw to protest Obama, instead supporting Republicans.

Cody Garrison, a third-year history student, said the group will demonstrate outside the stadium to show solidarity for the state Republican Party.

"This is to unite the Republican party and represent it at the Obama rally," Garrison said. "I want people to know that even though different people support different Republican presidential candidates, we are still one party. South Carolina is a conservative state, and we are here to keep it a conservative state."
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