A recent poll found that Ohioans have a mostly favorable opinion of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. But 52% said they didn't know enough about him to form an opinion. Most of the people who got to see him in person at Tri-C's eastern campus Monday night seemed to have made up their minds. ideastream's Mark Urycki spoke with some of them and filed this report.
Two book tours, a prominent speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, and numerous television appearances have made Barack Obama a celebrity. One of the phrases that keeps popping up with Obama appearances is "unexpectedly large turnout." That was again the case last night as seventeen hundred people got into the Tri-C gymnasium with tickets and an overflow crowd had to watch TV screens at various places around campus.
Barack Obama: We expect to win Ohio, so we want to make sure we're spending time in Ohio right now.
The Democrat offered fairly typical proposals for his party: an end to the war in Iraq, universal health care, less expensive student loans, alternative energy sources. He told the crowd that we all know the problems that America has and we know the solutions.
Barack Obama: It's the incapacity of our leadership to pull us together and get to work. I'm tired of that and I want to get busy. I want to get to work.
And that seemed to be the sentiment in the hall. One audience member held a sign that said "Obama Bring Us Together." Another "NASCAR Fans for Obama." And 19-year-old Emily Thuse, a Case Western Reserve student from Indiana, held a sign that said Reformed Republican for Obama.
Emily Thuse: I just think he has a great message out there for everyone and he is just such a fresh face. He's something just completely new so I'm really excited about it.
What do you like about his stands?
Emily Thuse: I really like how he is making it a collective ownership of the war in Iraq. He said from the beginning that he was against it but he's not just blaming George Bush. He's saying it's everyone's responsibility, because it is everyone's responsibility.
Obama's relative lack of experience seems to hurt him less than his newness helps him. David Lawrence of Solon has not made up his mind about the candidate but would like to see someone different.
David Lawrence: In regards to the difficult problems we have facing this country and abroad, maybe we need a new face a new youthful way of attacking these problems.
Fans brought copies Obama's new book, The Audacity of Hope, for him to sign. It calls for a more non-partisan, unified approach to solving problems. His bi-racial, bi-national parents make the candidate, who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, almost a living example of diversity. Kerry Cavett of Akron likes that.
Kerry Cavett: Just about everything about him. His background, his education his racial heritage. I think he can be a uniting force in the country.
Gerald Brown of Cleveland Heights agrees.
Gerald Brown: If Hillary wins, great, if John Edwards wins, great. Obama, I mean, I'm a man of culture, I'm a man of color but I'm not taking him because of the color. I like the fact that he's broad, he's vast. Beside the "articulate and clean" he's actually probably our best candidate.
Tamika Barnes is from Garfield Heights.
Tamika Barnes: I love what his ideas are for the country. He seems to have a lot of morals that a lot of our presidents haven't had in the past.
Voters will often go with a primary candidate that they think has the best chance of winning in the general election rather than a personal choice. Matt Biskur of Elyria is concerned about electability but not enough to dissuade him from a candidate he likes.
Matt Biskur: You know what? I read the book and I agree with a lot of what he had to say. He's really a breath of fresh air. I really hopes he makes it as the Democratic candidate.
And Richard Stewart of Cleveland Heights echoes that appeal for someone new and untarnished.
Richard Stewart: He seems to represent something fresh and new and I think that's what we as Americans are looking for: a politician who still seems to hold idealistic values and hopefully won't be beholding to special interests should he be successful. And to me that's refreshing.
One of Barack Obama's Democratic rivals, Hillary Clinton, is expected to visit Ohio next month.