MARTIN C. EVANS
Sen. Barack Obama visited the home turf of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday, rallying volunteers at an auditorium near Times Square, sharing laughs during an afternoon taping of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," then pumping hands with zealous supporters at a $25 per-person fundraiser in Brooklyn.
"What's up, Brooklyn?" a visibly confident Obama asked a roaring audience at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. Many attendees had waited in chilly drizzle to hear the one-time Brooklynite speak. Obama briefly lived in Park Slope while at Columbia University.
"America is starving for change ... they are tired of the same old, same old ... ." Obama told a packed ballroom of about 1,200 people. "They are tired of the can't do, won't do, won't-even-try style of government."
Someone in the audience shouted: "I'm tired of this war." "This war is not worth it and we need to bring about a change," Obama shouted back, to wild applause.
Obama's visit to New York came just three days after the former first lady scored a huge coup in Obama's political backyard, when she recruited a member of one of Chicago's wealthiest families to aid her bid for the White House.
Billionaire Jay Robert Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel empire and brother of a key Obama supporter, said Sunday he would serve as national chairman for Citizens for Hillary, doing grassroots outreach and fundraising. His sister, Chicagoan Penny Pritzker, is Obama's national finance chairwoman.
New York is considered a key fundraising state because of its concentrations of deep-pocketed residents, as are California, Texas, Florida and Illinois.
But Democratic candidates may have to work particularly hard in the upcoming election cycle in normally blue-state New York. Because should former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani win the Republican nomination, his favorite-son status could lure New York voters -- and campaign donations -- from the Democratic fold.
Obama's first public appearance Wednesday came at the Elliott Godoff Auditorium at Seventh Avenue and West 43rd Street, where he acknowledged the endorsement of several local politicians, including Suffolk County legislators Jon Cooper, Elie Mystal and Vivian Viloria-Fisher, and members of the New York City Council and the New York State legislature.
Moments before the TV taping with Stewart, a favorite source of current events among younger voters whose enthusiasm is helping to fuel Obama's campaign, Obama spoke before volunteers who participated in a three-day grassroots training session.
Participants in the "Camp Obama" training session were taught some of the same community organizing skills the Illinois senator utilized as an organizer in Chicago.
"What you are joining isn't just a political campaign, it's a grassroots movement for change," Obama told an assemblage of volunteers, who came from as far away as Virginia, and from as close as Spanish Harlem.
Clay Murray, 25, an apple farmer from Spotsylvania, Va., participated in "Camp Obama."
"Seeing him speak and knowing what he has done with his life, I know he's not in it for the bucks," Murray said. "He puts the power in us to spread his word, that we can make a difference."