Obama sets Pavilion attendance record

Whether Barack Obama (D) ultimately becomes President of the United States, the senator from Illinois has already made history in Charlottesville. At his Monday night rally at the Charlottesville Pavilion, he pushed attendance at that two-year-old venue to beyond its capacity. "We estimate it was a total of just over 5,000 people," says Pavilion manager Kirby Hutto. "That's way beyond anything we've ever done. I'm surprised we could fit everyone in here."

Before presidential hopeful ever spoke a word, former state senator Tom Michie said that in all his years in Charlottesville politics, he can only recall one instance of political fervor equal to this one. "The last time I can remember something like this was in 1960, Lyndon Johnson made a whistle stop at the train station and we had a mob this big," he says.

For all the anticipation buzzing through the attendees, and the more than $250,000 they had plunked down to see the Chicagoan, Obama did not disappoint. After a $2,300-per-person pre-rally event at downtown sushi restaurant Ten, and an introduction from Gov. Tim Kaine, he took the stage to U2's "City of Blinding Lights." For 50 minutes, the audience listened in rapt attention, staying pindrop quiet until exploding in tempestuous applause on cue.

After some opening jabs at President Bush, Obama got an equally big ovation for a thinly-veiled swipe at Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, who raised $200,000 at a Paramount Theater event in September). "There are those who say, 'Elect me, because I know how to play the game better,'" Obama intoned, "Understand, we don't need someone who knows how to play the game better. We need someone who's going to put an end to the game playing, because the stakes are too high."

The first-term senator directly addressed his lack of experience in high elective office. "There are a couple of guys named Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who had long resumés," he said. "A long resumé says nothing about your character. A long resumé says nothing about your judgment. And the next president is going to be all about judgment and character."

After discussing what he hoped to accomplish on a host of domestic issues like healthcare (during which he shared a poignant anecdote about how an insurance company tried to get out of covering his own mother's cancer treatment), energy, and the environment, Obama's focus turned to foreign policy. "I will stand up, even when its not popular," he said, and then proved it minutes later by telling the audience, "We will go after Al Qaeda. We will take out those who will kill us," and got nary a clap from the apparently dovish crowd. But, in the next moment, he had his cheering section back when he spoke of foreign aid proposals, ending the genocide in Darfur, closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, and emphasizing, "We are not a nation who ships people off in the middle of the night to secret prisons to be tortured. That's not America," to one of the evening's loudest ovations.

As Obama exited to the tune of Dave Matthews Band's "Ants Marching," attendees seemed to believe they had gotten their money's worth. "I've never come to a political rally before," said baby boomer Jamie Endahl of Albemarle. "He's an amazing speaker. He's almost apolitical. He's got a different kind of rhetoric, and I think people are ready to hear it."

Just how ready remains to be seen, but Americans will begin to get a sense of it when the Iowa Democratic Caucus– the first of the nation's nominating contests– happens on January 3.

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10 comments

It was no accident that the attendance at Monday's rally exceeded expectations. It was due to the hard work of more than 60 local folks who went door to door, handed out leaflets at every public event, opened up shop on the downtown mall and knocked themselves out in the last three weeks to sell tickets and make sure everyone knew how to get them. Thanks, everybody, for your hard work. Let's do it again in February for the primaries!

Conservatives want the poor to become middle class. Liberals want the poor to remain poor at the middle classes expense. Obama is all for that.

I can't wait to make a pile of money when these entitlment programs become mandatory.

Wonderful news.

Endorsements from Gov. Kaine, Mayor Wilder, and others. I can't wait for Senator Webb to endorse Obama!

Fired up! Ready to Go!

Petersburg, VA for OBAMA '08! The time is now!

Obama spoke in such generalities, I left feeling let down, not "fired up." He's an engaging speaker, but not an inspiring one. He said all the right things, but he lacked a unique connectedness or thoroughness to any particular issue that would stick with me.

Obama has something completely phony about him...haven't quite figured out what it is yet. But not as phony as all other policians, I'll give him that.

That should read POLITICIANS....my bad.

Clinton would be a disaster. After what Bush has done, I say give Obama a shot. At least he would be fresh and he seems fairly straightforward, unlike Hillary. Hillary is so polarizing that I think gridlock and backbiting would continue. I'm an old "Reagan Republican"...imagine that.
But Bush and these neo-cons I think have gotten us into a mess...Hell, neo-cons have bankrupted the country and have NO conscience...at least liberals have a conscience and good intentions when they bankrupt the country :)

Seriously, folks! Let's see Obama win the nomination. Enough of the Clintons and Bushes already!

Barack>Hillary. Giuliani>Barack. Reagan>everybody.

It was an awesome speech. I tried to picture Hillary up there. Not a pretty picture. Wake up Dems! Obama 08!