[Note: A second article appended stresses the financial crisis on youth and students]
26,000 Young Voters
in Virginia brave
rain for Obama rally
By Rachael Dickson
Youth Vote 2008 Correspondent
Fredericksburg, VA, Sept. 28, 2008 - Thousands of Sen. Barack Obama's supporters cheered him Saturday night as he spoke through the pouring rain at University of Mary Washington.
According to UMW student Peter Ceo, a College Democrats member, people started arriving at the event at 10 a.m., nine hours before the Democratic presidential nominee and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, arrived.
"The line was well over half a mile long this morning," Ceo said.
Virginia is a key state in this year's election as the landscape is changing from a historically conservative state to more liberal in recent years.
According to The Washington Post, Jay Snipes, chief of the University of Mary Washington police force, estimated that 12,000 people were at the rally and another 14,000 were unable to get in after the United States Secret Service stopped allowing people in around 5 p.m.
The large, diverse and fiercely loyal crowd withstood the afternoon's high heat and humidity, which left many dehydrated. Though event volunteers passed out water bottles to the densely packed crowd, at least two attendees were observed taken away by emergency medical staff.
Later, when the sky opened up and it began to pour, the audience shielded itself with trash bags, jackets, Obama/Biden signs, blankets and whatever came to hand. Much of the press members took shelter, wrapping expensive cameras in ponchos as they retreated to a tent reserved for the traveling press or ducked under the risers.
Obama's supporters took the opportunity to dance and sing in the rain to the music pumping out over the loud speakers- a mix of classics such as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and newer songs such as "Move Along" by the All-American Rejects.
The sun came out and dried the crowd in time for a few preliminary speakers to give abbreviated speeches before Biden and Obama arrived. Fredericksburg's state Sen. Edward Houck jazzed up the audience by leading cheers commenting on last night's first presidential debate.
"Who won the debate last night?" Houck said, smiling at the crowd's roaring answer of "Obama." "The difference between Obama and McCain could not have been more obvious."
He also commented on the importance of registering to vote, saying, "All across America we have the opportunity to reach out and touch the future."
Raucous cheers greeted Biden and Obama as they walked out on the stage. Biden began the program to cheers of "Joe! Joe!" by talking about the differences between Obama and McCain at the debate.
"Last night McCain's silence was definite," Biden said. "You did not hear him say the words middle-class or working class once."
Biden also criticized McCain's foreign policy positions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We need more than a brave soldier," Biden said. "We need a wise leader. And that's Barack Obama."
Obama cracked a joke to begin his speech.
"I know some of you got a little damp, and I'm deeply sorry," he said. "Those of you wearing that special outfit, I would like to cover everyone's dry cleaning bills tonight, but I can't cause I got to use it on the campaign. So consider it one more modest effort to help the campaign."
Later on in his speech, as another deluge of rain began, Obama took off his jacket after joking about his own dry-cleaning bills and then proceeded to continue speaking to the crowd for another ten minutes, without cover.
Obama also spoke on the debate, calling McCain "out-of-touch" and saying ""On issue after issue, you heard John McCain make the case for more of the same."
He also joked about McCain's use of "change" in recent political advertising by saying
"Change is more than a slogan."
Obama referred to McCain's lack of mention of the words "middle-class" or "working-class" by saying "In 90 minutes, John McCain had a lot to say about me- but he had nothing to say to you...We need a president who will change the economy so it finally works for your family."
Obama spoke of the American dream to succeed as well, saying, "In America, our destiny
isn't written for us, it's written by us."
After talking for almost half an hour, Obama said good night to the crowd, leaving the stage with Biden. The crowd dispersed quickly, eager to get to their dry cars and dry-cleaning bills.
[Rachael Dickson is a junior at George Mason University and an award-winning journalist who works as a freelance contributor for WashingtonPost.com's LoudounExtra.com.]
September 26, 2008
Failing Economy Has
Young Voters Worried
For young Americans, it’s the economy too, stupid.
A new Rock the Vote poll of voters ages 18-29 has found that 41 percent said the next president’s first concern should be the economy, compared with just 17 percent who listed it as their chief concern in February. Eleven percent said gas prices were most important, while the war in Iraq and the cost of higher education garnered 10 percent each.
Although young voters have changed their focus to the economy, their presidential choice remains steady: The poll found that Barack Obama leads John McCain, 56 percent to 29 percent, among young voters. Those voters also appeared likely to defy the idea that they won’t turn out at the polls: 87 percent said they planned to vote, compared with 82 percent in February.
“Democrats are winning big this year among young voters, and young voters’ high level of engagement has the potential to turn into record turnout at the polls,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, which helped conduct the poll. “Senator Obama nearly doubles Senator McCain’s vote share, Congressional Democrats lead by more than 20 points, and young people want change. Every Democratic campaign should pay close attention to the growing youth movement.”
Though just 2 percent of those polled said they considered climate change as their top concern, an advocacy group is hoping a wind farm will change that. Starting with tonight’s presidential debate at the University of Mississippi, Power Vote will be installing 30 nine-foot-tall windmills at each of the debate sites, as well as various other college campuses, to encourage the use of clean energy.