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Campaigns and Elections Magazine: Obama Pushes Voters to Contact Senators on Iraq

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Campaigns and Elections Magazine: Obama Pushes Voters to Contact Senators on Iraq

By Beth LaMontagne

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., emphasized a need for change in America during a town hall-style meeting on Friday afternoon. He spoke about what he would accomplish in his first 100 days if elected president, the need to have a more humanitarian and diplomatic foreign policy approach and his plans to address health care and global warming.

More than 300 people came to Rye Elementary School to hear Obama and possibly get a chance to ask him a question. The event was held in a small gymnasium with Obama speaking from the center of the room with many local politicians, union representatives and teachers in attendance.

In a short speech, Obama acknowledged that Americans are looking for change and have been frustrated with the current atmosphere in Washington.

"Many of us feel cynical about politics," he said. "We get discouraged and maybe every two years or four years half of us vote...but we don't have confidence the government is going to have meaning in our lives."

"Despite all that I am feeling optimistic," he added. "Because the American people are paying attention to this election ... never have more people been engaged early in an election than they have been this year and I think that's a good thing."

One of the first questions asked of the senator was regarding his priorities on national spending and defense. Obama pointed to a woman passing out cookies from Priorities NH, a group that highlights how much money is spent on national defense, and quipped that the cookies, frosted in a pie chart that showed the proportion of the national budget allocated to defense spending, were much better than the pens the group often hands out. While he maintained that national defense is still important, Obama agreed with the group's platform that the country needs to look at where all the money is going and make sure it is being spent wisely.

"We spend more money on defense than the next 30 major nations combined," he said. "What we can do [is ask] do we get everything we should be getting out of that much money and are we more secure?"

Another way to reduce military spending is to take the American troops out of Iraq, he added. Obama reminded the room he was against the invasion of Iraq and has pushed in the Senate to bring the war to a close. Today, the country has two options, he said. Either change the mind of President George Bush and convince him to bring the troops home, something Obama said is not likely to happen, or Congress could pass legislation to end the war.

Obama urged those in the room to contact his colleagues New Hampshire Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu and ask them to support the recent legislation vetoed by President Bush that would fund the war, yet lay out a timeline for troops to return home. Sixteen votes are needed to override the veto and Obama said it was important for those against the war to have their voices heard. The Obama campaign will also be addressing this issue on Saturday during a large, statewide canvassing event. Besides campaigning for the senator, supporters will be in various cities in New Hampshire circulating a petition asking Gregg and Sununu to vote to override the president's veto.

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