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San Jose Mercury News - Obama Inspires Crowd With Excitement, Hope

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San Jose Mercury News - Obama Inspires Crowd With Excitement, Hope

By Julia Prodis Sulek

A twirling disco ball at a San Francisco nightclub cast fuchsia diamonds of light on the starched white collar of presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday night as he whipped up a crowd of nearly 1,000 mostly young professionals into a tent revival frenzy.

To a deafening roar of whoops and applause, the Democratic senator from Illinois strode back and forth across the stage telling the standing crowd packed onto the dance floor and filling the balconies that "people are hungry for change."

"That's right!" scattered voices called back to him. "We know what the problems are," Obama said, listing off a broken health care system, lagging schools, global warming."

"Tell us about it!" another voice shouted back. Obama lamented the working public that is "not getting ahead."

"Thank you!" another voice shot back.

And Obama disparaged the Iraq war that "never should have been authorized."

"End this war!" another shouted.

"That's right" came another from the balcony.

If Barack Obama wanted to fire up a crowd of young educated voters Tuesday night on his "Generation Barack Obama" tour, one need look no further than Elisabeth Voigt - a 29-year-old San Francisco lawyer who jumped up and down after she shook his hand.

Or Angelica Jongco, another lawyer, who said, "I feel like I'm part of something," after Obama grabbed her outstretched hand and shook it.

"We believe in you!" she told him.

"I feel inspired," she said. "I think I'm someone that can be cynical, but I do believe he will follow through on his promises - and he represents a choice that is different and inclusive in the way no one else is."

Sandeep Sood, 30, who lives in Berkeley and runs a software company, said after Obama's 8:30 p.m. rally that he felt like "you're in a church and everyone's going crazy."

"He's the first politician who speaks to our generation," Sood said. "I'm not really political, but I'm really inspired by the guy."

Tuesday's night's $250 per person fundraiser was the second public rally he's held since about 10,000 people wrapped around several city blocks in Oakland in March to hear him speak for free. He is still trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls, but is well ahead of John Edwards, as well as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson who spoke to a polite but restrained crowd in San Jose on Tuesday sponsored by the Silicon Valley Commonwealth Club.

Whether the enthusiasm for Obama pulsing through the San Francisco night club will spread across the country is uncertain.

"This is the one place he's got the market covered. This demographic is his sweet spot," said David Morris, 40, a lawyer from Marin. "He's got to be more than that."

Obama's event was held at Ruby Skye nightclub on Mason Street, an old building whose cavernous main room was adorned with naked cupids and gilded molding.

"I am so glad to be in San Francisco with so many progressive folks who want to see a change in this country," he said to the well-dressed crowd swirling martinis and raising their cell phones to snap pictures.

Obama said he is often accused of being a "hope-monger."

"I tell 'em, I say, `I believe in this country. I believe in its possibilities.' "

But, he said he can't make changes by himself. "No you can't!" cried out a woman from the balcony. "There's got to be a grassroots movements pushing it in the direction of change," he said.

"Once in a generation, a window opens. If we make that effort somehow America is made anew," he said to growing applause. "If you will be there with me!"

Call your friends, he said. E-mail them.

"Make this campaign a vehicle for your hopes and dreams!"

The crowd surged forward as he stepped onto the dance floor to shake hands for another 10 minutes.

"I feel he's taking us with him" said Kate Botham, 30, a second-year law student. "He wants us to be part of the change. It's not just him, it's cool."

As the crowd filtered out, the DJ's music spilled out of the lobby and onto Mason street.

It was an old Stevie Wonder hit, "As" -- with the line "I'll be loving you always."


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