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Friday, February 1, 2008

Fired up and ready to go

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Barack Obama supporters were "fired up and ready to go" Thursday at a standing-room-only rally at Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center, mobilizing efforts for Tuesday’s presidential primary.
Obama’s New Haven field director Donnel Baird said the candidate must carry Connecticut to secure the Democratic nomination, and said he can’t win the state without New Haven and Bridgeport.
But with 22 states, including Connecticut, voting in the Super Tuesday primary, money and time are tight. Campaigners will not be buying yard signs or putting up posters in the city, Baird said.
Organizers are relying on networks of Obama backers to hit the streets today and over the weekend, and are asking supporters to hold house parties to screen a DVD biography of the candidate.
The rally briefly became a phone bank, as Baird asked each attendee to pull out a cell phone and call five, six or seven voters.
Obama is expected in Hartford on Monday, but he’s not expected to visit New Haven.
"There are more undecided voters in this state than most places he goes," said U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. "Can we get out the vote? The more people come out, the more undecided people we’ll pick up, and Connecticut will fall into the Obama camp, and we’re now dealing with the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama."
Former Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman likened Obama’s voice and message to that of President Kennedy.
"The only way we will succeed is by remembering who we are. It takes a very special voice to call us back to the better angels of our American selves," he said. "This isn’t a pie in the sky dream. Barack Obama has invited us to lead the way again.
"At a moment when we need his leadership badly, the world needs it badly, he has appeared and spoken. … He will be the first great president of the 21st century," Kronman said to applause.
The rally drew Obama supporters and a handful of undecided voters from across the area.
Edgewood Park Defense Patrol organizer Eli Greer said his group has endorsed Obama for his ability to cross racial lines.
"Hillary made every effort to use the race card to try to create division. That road has to be stomped out," Greer said Thursday.
For many in the audience, support for Obama dated back to his address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
"I made up my mind the first time I saw Obama," said Thomas Nelson III, a Gateway Community College student living in Hamden.
Nelson happened to hear Obama speaking on CNN while channeling surfing in 2004 and thought, "He needs to run for president. We need somebody with his ideals," he said.
It was a similar story for New Haven educator Carolyn Baker.
After hearing Obama speak in 2004, she said she hoped he would run.
"I think we need the best talent, the best intellect for this office. Our country cannot suffer further," she said.
"He’s a guy I’ve been waiting for for 20 years," said David Bachman of Bethany. "Clinton relies too much on Washington, D.C., and the Beltway. Obama is committed to growing change from the bottom up," he said.
"Overall (Clinton) has been a wonderful public servant. She’s made a wonderful senator, and I think she’ll continue to serve in that capacity under President Obama," he said.
The rally was a coordinated effort by Obama supporters at Yale Law School and local campaigns.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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