- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama has inspired young Democrats in the past three months to start a Web site and a federal political action committee that have brought together nearly 3,000 people in an attempt to persuade the Illinoisan to run for president.

DraftObama.org, a Web site founded by Rockville computer technician Ben Stanfield, was conceived in 2004, but it didn’t become active until October. Since then, more than 2,500 volunteers in all 50 states have signed on, and 150 to 200 are active in building a grass-roots organization.

Mr. Stanfield, 26, said his sole interest is to convince Mr. Obama that he can win.

“If he decides to run, I think our goals will have been served, and we would do whatever it takes to close down the PAC,” he said. He said he is not looking for an official job on a campaign.

The young politico said he was so inspired by Mr. Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that he registered the domain name DraftObama the next week.

“But I guess I forgot about it for a year until I saw another speech of his and decided that there was no further need to wait and see,” he said.

The DraftObama PAC has raised enough money to run television ads in the District, Hawaii, Iowa and New Hampshire, touting Mr. Obama as a candidate.

DraftObama expanded its base this week by joining forces with Independents4Obama.blog spot.com.

“The move comes in response to growing calls on the group’s Web site to acknowledge the significant support of non-party-affiliated voters for a presidential run by Senator Obama,” said Kris Schultz, spokeswoman for DraftObama.

Independents4Obama was created by Seth Tobey, 22, a Democrat from Germantown, Ohio, who is attending law school at the University of Iowa.

Mr. Tobey said he, too, has been inspired by Mr. Obama’s speeches.

“He inspires hope that we can get past the days of bickering and fighting that have controlled the debate in Washington, and I think he has proven he can work across party lines — like when he worked with Senator Tom Coburn [Oklahoma Republican] to pass earmark reform,” Mr. Tobey said.

He said he started the blog a week before Christmas and generated 500 hits in the first five days. He now averages about 300 visits a day.

Mr. Tobey joined forces with DraftObama a day after the group ran its first ad in Iowa, titled “Believe Again.” The 60-second spot, produced by Democratic media consultant Bud Jackson, highlights Mr. Obama’s potential to lead the country.

A Survey2000 poll of Iowa voters released last week showed Mr. Obama tied with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and having nearly twice the support of the nearest Democrat for the 2008 presidential nomination.

Although the field of presidential hopefuls is filling quickly, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and outgoing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack are the only Democrats who have officially declared their candidacies. Others widely mentioned include former Vice President Al Gore, 2004 nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.

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