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The Columbus Dispatch - Obama Fires up Crowd at Columbus Rally

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The Columbus Dispatch - Obama Fires up Crowd at Columbus Rally

By Joe Hallett

Even though many struggled to hear the speech through an echoing sound system, a crowd of roughly 2,000 mostly college students today cheered Sen. Barack Obama's promise to change the country if elected president next year.

The Illinois Democrat, freshly endorsed by Mayor Michael B. Coleman and making his first public speech in Columbus as a presidential candidate, stirred the crowd from the outset with a fetching cry of "O-H." The resounding "I-O" came on cue.

Obama, trailing Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York in national polls, refrained from attacking any of his Democratic rivals, but did not spare President Bush.

Explaining why he has drawn big crowds at rallies across the country, Obama said, "Let's face it: People are tired of George W. Bush."

Obama continually battered Bush for leading the country into an ill-advised war, failing the estimated 47 million Americans without health insurance, and for policies that favor wealthy individuals and corporations.

"I understand that you are tired of being sick and tired," Obama said. "The system has not been working for us."

Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said Obama's failure to move up in the polls shows that his attempt to articulate a populist message is not working.

"Senator Obama's position in polls is due in part to his plans for reckless spending and outrageous tax hikes," Taylor said. "The voters of Ohio and America will not support a candidate who's campaign promise is to take away more of their hard earned money."

Coleman, who introduced Obama, said he would be the best president for Columbus and the country: "I believe he should be and will be the next president of the United States of America."

The event was a fundraiser for Obama's campaign. Adults paid $25 each; students $15.

Obama said he opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2002 at a time when it was unpopular to do so.

"I've got the experience of standing up for things even when they're not popular."

And he pledged that if he becomes president, "I will bring an end to this war."

He advocated foreign policies that include talking with foes as well as friends to promote better understanding and diminish the chances for conflicts.

"We've got to change the mindset in Washington that got us into this war," Obama said. "We've got to change the mindset of people around the world to help us."

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