San Francisco Examiner - Obama Adds Campaign Cash in Minnesota
By Brian Bakst
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama padded his campaign fundraising numbers Friday with small-and-big buck events, telling one overflow crowd he'd champion an energy revolution on the homefront and improve America's foreign reputation as president.
Organizers estimated 3,000 people paid between $15 and $25 for rally at a warehouse-turned-office building and they were counting on a couple hundred at a private reception for larger donors.
It marked Obama's first visit to Minnesota as a presidential candidate. Two of his rivals, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, swung through weeks earlier.
At the larger event, supporters stood elbow-to-elbow all around the stage and hundreds more leaned over four balconies that ringed the building's atrium to hear the first-term Illinois senator.
"Sometimes when I look around and see these wonderful faces from every walk of life, I say to myself `It's tempting to think it's all about me and I'm just so fabulous," Obama said. "But when I'm honest with myself I have to admit that's not the reason people are coming out. The reason people are coming out is because all around the country people are ready for change."
"There are people with a sense of urgency, with a sense of passion that want to see a different America," he added.
His roughly 30-minute speech echoed themes he's hitting as he flies around the country. He promised to phase out U.S. troops in Iraq being "as careful getting out as we were careless getting in." On energy, he advocated a 45 mile per gallon fuel economy standard for cars.
"It is well within existing technological capabilities," he said. "We can replace the equivalent of all the oil we import from the Persian Gulf."
It was a disproportionately youthful crowd, many of whom have never voted in a presidential election.
Community college student John Oen, 19, and two friends held down a spot a few feet from the stage - their prize for being near the front of a line that snaked four blocks long.
"He looks the part. He looks like a president," Oen said. "He definitely acts the part."
Like many in the audience, Carl Noren learned of the event over the Internet and bought a $15 student ticket. General admission was $25, and those who came were added to Obama's rapidly expanding donor list that now exceeds 250,000 for the year.
"He's the most charismatic, he makes the most sense," said Noren, a 19-year-old University of South Dakota student. "He's all around the best candidate the Democrats could get for the next election."
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak marveled at the turnout.
"This is the most genuine grass roots campaign I've ever seen," Rybak said.
Minnesota Republicans took a less charitable view.
"All the media hype in the world can't obscure the fact that Barack Obama lacks the experience, leadership and accomplishments necessary to be commander in chief," said state GOP chairman Ron Carey.
From the rally, Obama headed to a private, higher-dollar fundraiser at the riverfront house of a couple known for raising loads of money for Democrats.