Boston Globe: Calif. Democrats warm for Clinton, wild for Obama
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wowed California Democrats at their annual convention on Saturday, drawing a more passionate welcome than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton received hours earlier in this state that carries new clout in the presidential primaries.
More than 2,000 party activists frequently rose to their feet in cheers as Obama, who has served just two years in the U.S. Senate, talked about his desire to end the war in Iraq and usher in a new political era in Washington.
"It is time to put an end to this war," Obama, of Illinois, said at the convention center in San Diego shortly before many started chanting his surname.
Even Clinton supporters recognized Obama's speech -- full of generalities such as the need to "turn the page" -- had tapped into the crowd's emotions.
"It was the same thing in 2003 for Howard Dean," said Andrea Dew Steele, 38, referring to the former Vermont governor who made a strong showing early in the last presidential race largely because of his opposition to the war.
"We have a very progressive left-wing constituency here in California. Obama's extremely talented, but this is Hillary's time," said Steele, who wore a Clinton sticker on her lapel.
Democrats were making their pitch to a state that has become key in the primaries since California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month signed a law moving up its primary to February 2008 from June to give the state a greater role in the presidential selection.
BIG EARLY TEST
In recent years, California has served as a vital source of fund-raising, but the national contest was already decided by the time the state held its primary. New York has also moved up it primary to the same day in February 2008, which could make it the earliest and biggest test of candidates' strength.
California Democrats gave Clinton a warm if not overly effusive welcome, with a few shouting out for an immediate end to the Iraq war. "The first thing I will do upon taking office is to end the war in Iraq," Clinton said.
During her speech, a small minority held signs or called out for the U.S. Congress to cut off funding for the Iraq conflict, a move that could undercut President George W. Bush's plans to continue military involvement there.
"She is pro-war," said Patrick Tate, 59, who loudly booed the New York senator. Clinton has refused to apologize for her 2002 vote authorizing the war or call it a mistake.
"I am proud that I stood up in 2002 when it wasn't popular to take a stand and urged our leaders not to take us down this dangerous path," Obama said, contrasting himself with Clinton and others. Obama was not in the Senate at the time.
Clinton, considered a front-runner in the primary contest, got cheers with calls for universal health insurance and support for what she termed the invisible people of society.
At a news conference, the wife of former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the crucial early contests in California and New York have changed the dynamics of the campaign.
"It's added to the mix in an extraordinary way. You know, we've never had a primary process like this," she said. "It puts an enormous burden on me and my campaign. Obviously, you know we have to cover a lot more ground and raise a lot more money to be able to compete in all these states."
Caitlin Harvey, 20, a university student, said other candidates were stirring more passions than Clinton, adding she preferred Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. "Obama, he's new and fresh, he makes people excited about politics again," she said. "Hillary, she doesn't excite people as much."