Obama backers like his inspiration, hope

ST. PAUL - Hope. Inspiration. Youth. Inclusion. And more hope. Those are traits Barack Obama would take to the White House, his supporters are saying as they await a historic St. Paul speech tonight which is expected to kick off his campaign for ...

ST. PAUL - Hope. Inspiration. Youth. Inclusion. And more hope.

Those are traits Barack Obama would take to the White House, his supporters are saying as they await a historic St. Paul speech tonight which is expected to kick off his campaign for president against Republican John McCain.

With today's final delegate surge, the 46-year-old U.S. senator from Chicago's South Side is well on is way to becoming the first black major political party presidential nominee. The Associated Press declared at mid-day that regardless of the outcome of today's Montana and South Dakota primaries, Obama has enough national convention delegates to win the nomination next August in Denver.

Opponents should not take Obama lightly, Bud McClure of Duluth said.

"One thing they have attempted to do is dismiss the inspirational nature of this young man," the University of Minnesota Duluth psychology professor said outside the Xcel Energy Center hours before Obama spoke.


Obama's Minnesota fans lined up outside the Xcel center beginning at 7:30 a.m.

First in line were two Hastings teens.

"My generation is plagued with apathy," Bonni McCallson, 18, said from her perch at the front of the line.

She and 19-year-old Kate Rickert said Obama is the person to break that apathy and bring young voters to the polls.

"He gets people inspired," Rickert added.

A few hundred people in line behind Rickert and McCallson, and out of sight from the main door, Eric Aufderhar leaned on a wall reading a book.

Like most at Obama's event, November will be Aufderhar's first opportunity to vote for president.

"I am tired of how the country is going," the 21-year-old University of Minnesota Morris student said before returning to his book.


The youthful group stood and sat in line on a gray, rainy day, almost 12 hours in the case of McCallson and Rickert. Across the street, national television and cable networks were set up for live reports from downtown St. Paul.

Obama's campaign picked Minnesota for his victory speech for a couple of reasons - the Xcel is where McCain will accept the Republican nomination in early September and the Upper Midwest probably will be a battleground state in this year's presidential election.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, McCain's national co-chairman, summoned reporters to welcome Obama to Minnesota and promote his own candidate.

"These candidates are going to be here a lot," Pawlenty said.

McCain plans a June 19 visit to the Twin Cities, for a fund-raiser and, probably, a town meeting.

The last time Minnesota backed a Republican was President Nixon in 1972. However, Al Gore beat George W. Bush in 2000 by just 2.4 percentage points. John Kerry did a bit better in 2004, edging Bush with a 3.5-point margin.

While Obama, a freshman Illinois senator, has been building his lead for five months,

Obama was born in Hawaii Aug. 4, 1961. His mother was a native Kansan; his father came from Kenya.


After living in New York and Indonesia, he moved to Chicago in 1985. There, he was a community organizer for a church-based group.

Obama earned a law degree and was elected to the Illinois Senate. He moved on to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Pawlenty said someone with so little experience should not be president. He predicted that many voters who like Clinton's experience will go to McCain.

"It's beyond debate that having experience is a good thing," Pawlenty said.

But the GOP governor did not check Obama supporters at the Xcel center. For them, Obama's inspiration was much more important than any lack of experience.

McClure said he has seen no politician since John F. Kennedy as inspirational as Obama.

McClure's sister, Molly McClure of Harrisburg, Pa., is visiting Minnesota and decided to join her brother at the Tuesday night rally.

She has seen Obama before, and said he has a magnetic personality. "There is something about his nature that is attractive."


The McClures' comments were typical. Most Obama backers said little, if anything, about his policy positions.

For McCallson, sitting in a camping chair for hours awaiting Obama was worth it because she was part of a growing force.

"So many people are coming in armies," she said of the Obama campaign.

Calling herself a lower-middle class Minnesotan, McCallson said she can relate to Obama better than other politicians. "He understands what it is like to be one of us."

Clinton and McCain both are too much party-line politicians, she added, offering nothing new.

Aufderhar, who plans to be a history teacher, said he is optimistic young Americans will vote this year, especially for Obama.

"There is something about him that will bring everyone in," Aufderhar said. "We want to have someone in power to usher us in."

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