Wisconsin State Journal - Obama Greets 4,000 of the Faithful in Madison, as He Lays Plans for Iowa
Presidential candidate Barack Obama greeted an overflow crowd of 4,000 in Madison today -- with a sports joke:
"Never before have this many Packers fans cheered for a Bears fan," the U.S. senator from Illinois told the throng of college students and others.
He quickly shifted gears, and appealed for help in his campaign for the Democratic Party nomination.
"I want to bring about a better America, and I need you to make that happen Madison," the Democrat said.
Organizers are calling the campaign event the largest student-driven event the Obama campaign has held.
The presidential candidate was expected to speak to the crowd before noon.
More than 300 people were lined up to see Obama at the Monona Terrace Convention Center before the doors opened this morning at 9:30 a.m. and by 11 a.m. more than 1,000 were waiting for admittance to an overflow area.
Temo Figueroa, Obama's national field director, said UW-Madison's student group easily ranks in the top five in membership among the 700 Obama student organizations across the country.
About 3,000 tickets had been sold before the event began, driven largely by a UW-Madison student campaign push. The event was taking place at Monona Terrace to provide more room for the crowd. It was originally booked at the Orpheum Theatre, which holds 1,500 people.
Tickets were $15 for students, $30 for general admission.
At about 11 a.m., Bryon Eagon, a UW-Madison sophomore and organizer of Students for Barack Obama, announced to the crowd that more than 2,000 students were in attendance, with about 1,000 still lined up to get into an overflow area of the event.
"For many of us, this is the first time that we've found a candidate we can really care about," Eagon said. "But more importantly, we've found a candidate who really cares about us."
Madison City Council Ald. Zach Brandon, 7th District, said local Obama supporters asked the campaign to visit Madison to recruit students that might help knock on doors in Iowa before the January Democratic caucus. Wisconsin's primary won't take place until February, when the nomination may already be secured.
"Their goal wasn't to build political support, but to build energy to transfer to Iowa," Brandon said.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle's son Gus introduced Obama calling him "a true champion of humanity."
"Times like this do not come every day," Gus Doyle said. "That's why it's critical that each and every one of us in this room take this energy and excitement back to your communities, back to your dorms, back to your respective neighborhoods.
"Recruit 10 other individuals to the polls. That's what it's going to take."
Hilary Manley, a UW-Madison junior studying elementary education, arrived at Monona Terrace decked in Badger red at 6 a.m., half an hour before anyone else. Her goal was to be first in line "because I love him."
"I think he's going to bring a lot good change," Manley said.
Obama is the first presidential candidate to visit Madison since New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in August 2006. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton visited Madison in April 2005.
Obama's last visit to Wisconsin was a campaign stop in Milwaukee in April. Other presidential candidates who have visited Wisconsin include U.S. Sens. John McCain, John Edwards and Sam Brownback and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.