Birmingham News - Obama's Alabama Stops Pull More Than $100,000
By Charles J. Dean and Kent Faulk
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama brought his presidential campaign to Birmingham and Huntsville Monday, raking in more than $100,000 to add to a war chest that already has topped $50 million.
And the Democratic candidate's swing through Alabama convinced some uncertain voters to come off the fence and support him.
Obama began his day in Alabama with a $1,000-a-plate luncheon at the Heritage Club in downtown Huntsville attended by 70 donors. The Huntsville event was closed to the public but a small crowd gathered outside the event caught Obama's attention. It included two men holding signs that read: "Anybody but Hillary Even You," a reference to Obama's main rival for the Democratic Party nomination for the White House, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
As Obama shook hands with the small crowd, he pointed at the two men, chuckled and said, "That's kind of a backhanded compliment."
Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison said he went into the Huntsville fundraiser not sure if he supported Obama. He left impressed.
"Today, I saw a side of him and a level of confidence and assuredness in his ability to be able to lead," Harrison said.
At the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Birmingham, an energized Obama told a large, diverse and enthusiastic crowd that America under President Bush has seen a government that "can't do, won't do and won't even try."
"Americans are hungry for change. They are desperate for something new," Obama told about 2,000 cheering fans, most of whom had paid $25 each to listen to him. "We have had so much dysfunction, so much nonsense ... in Washington D.C., that people have just said enough."
The crowd, a mixture of white and black, young and old, affluent and not, repeatedly cheered as Obama criticized Bush.
"We've got a health care system that is broken, that is bankrupting families all across America," Obama said. "We've got an education system that, despite the slogan, is leaving millions of children behind. We've got the absence of an energy policy which means you're paying $3-and-something-a-gallon at the gas tank and sending all that money to some of the most hostile nations on Earth.
"And, we've got this war that never should have been waged. A war that has cost us half-a-trillion dollars so far and a war that has cost us, more importantly, thousands of precious American lives."
A crowd that was already buzzing waiting for Obama's arrival, got grew more revved when NBA Hall of Famer and Leeds native, Charles Barkley, took the stage to urge them to support Obama.
"The one thing you will hear is that this man is a uniter. You've got too many dividers," Barkley said. "Politics are broken. We need somebody who can fix it. Please listen to what Barack's got to say today, please."
At one point, someone in the crowded shouted at Barkley urging him to run for governor, something he has said for years he wants to do.
"Let me tell you something," Barkley told the shouter. "You don't have to worry about that. You've got my word on that."
One vote Obama won over in Birmingham was Christi Haynes of Birmingham, a mother of three who came to Monday's fundraiser not quite convinced Obama was the real thing.
"I was undecided coming in," Haynes said, who added that she will not support Clinton. "I don't trust her," Haynes said.
"I'm going to vote for him. I like it that he comes out and says it straight. That's why I came here, to see if he's real. And he is," Haynes said.
After his downtown speech, Obama headed to another fundraiser, this one at the Mountain Brook home of HealthSouth President and CEO Jay Grinney. Those attending paid $1,000 to $2,300 a person to meet the White House hopeful who by most polls is chasing Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for president.
Alabama voters will go to the polls Feb. 5 to cast ballots in the Democratic and Republican party primaries.