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Sun-Sentinel: Barak Obama Calls For New Political Spirit During South Florida Campaign Swing

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Location: West Palm Beach, FL

Sun-Sentinel: Barack Obama calls for new political spirit during South Florida campaign swing

By Josh Hafenbrack

Barack Obama called for an end to the Iraq war and the start of a new political spirit in America during a Florida fundraising tour on Sunday, making his debut as a 2008 presidential candidate in a state that could take on renewed importance in the primary nominating process.

In a 20-minute speech laying out a laundry list of domestic spending priorities, including universal health care, Obama said he wants to give rise to a "million voices" to say, "We don't want the small, timid, slash and burn, negative campaigning of the past," he said. "We want a politics based on common sense and pragmatism."

U.S. Sen. Obama, D-Ill., held his first presidential campaign rally in Florida before about 800 supporters in a half-filled room at the Kravis Center. The $100-per ticket event raised about $100,000 for Obama's campaign, said local Democratic operative Bryan Miller, who helped organize it.

Speaking from a flag-draped dais, Obama called for the beginning of a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq that would have everyone out by March 31, 2008.

"We're not only diminishing our standing in the world and strengthening Iran, but we're also weakening our own economy and running up the credit cards for future generations," he said. "That's why I am proud I was against the war from the start. I'm proud that I stood up in 2002."

Also Sunday, Obama held a private, $2,300-a-plate brunch at the Palm Beach mansion of Netscape founder Jim Clark. He also had scheduled stops for private fundraisers in Hallandale Beach and Coral Gables.

Obama's visit comes as a proposal moves through the Florida Legislature that would make the state a key player in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries by moving the state's primary to Jan. 29. Next Saturday, one of Obama's chief primary rivals, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is making a campaign stop in Palm Beach County.

Focusing on domestic priorities, Obama advocated for a universal health care system by 2012, pay raises for teachers and expanded early childhood education programs, and a new energy policy to increase fuel-efficiency standards and confront global warming

Obama did not detail how he would pay for these priorities, except to say that money now going to the Iraq war could be used on domestic programs.

He called Iraq "a war that should never have been authorized, should never have been waged. A war that has cost us half a trillion dollars so far, almost 3,200 lives lost. And yet it hasn't made us more safe, it's made us less safe."

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