Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama yesterday rallied supporters in preparation for his presidential campaign’s nationwide March for Change, which will see thousands going door to door tomorrow to promote the Illinois Democrat’s candidacy.

Mr. Obama spoke at length about his health care plan to cut family premiums by $2,500 a year, and his energy policy, but also stressed that his campaign will not concede Southern states to the Republican Party as many Democratic campaigns have done in the past.

“We’re going to change that,” Mr. Obama told an Atlanta supporter who will be participating in tomorrow’s march. “There was a time when the South was solidly Democratic and that started to change in the late 1960s and throughout the 1990s, but there is nothing to say that Democrats can’t win in those states, if we don’t stop showing up.”

In a conference call with supporters, Mr. Obama said his campaign is working hard in the Southern states early and will continue through the primaries organizing and visiting, particularly early primary states such as Georgia, Florida and South Carolina where 450 volunteers will canvass the state tomorrow.

He encouraged a supporter from Phoenix — who asked for last-minute advice about organizing — and the other volunteers to not get discouraged by people who don’t know who Mr. Obama is “and don’t want to,” those who slam doors in their faces and those who are not backers of the Democratic Party.

“The most important thing as a community organizer is to listen and not just talk, listen to people and hear their stories,” Mr. Obama said. “If someone says they are not going to vote for Obama, ask them why, and if they say they don’t believe the Democrats will change anything, ask them why.”

He said the biggest mistake an organizer can make is to go out and lecture people, which he said shows a sign of disrespect for other people’s views.

“You may find that you may be educated and enlightened by what they have to say.”

Asked by a New York supporter what he would do to heal the rift between the United States and Latin American countries, Mr. Obama said the U.S. government has been “obsessed” with the Middle East.

“We don’t know what’s going on in Brazil and Argentina, and certainly Guyana and human rights issues throughout South America, and it is our economic competitor China who is reaching out to Latin American,” he said.

“The same goes for Africa, where I heard a lot about what the Chinese are doing and nothing about what the U.S. is doing. So we can’t be obsessed with Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government he is running. We have to look at him, but at the same time, look to other countries and what their issues are.”

Hundreds of volunteers listened to yesterday’s conference call to get energized for the Obama campaign’s canvass tomorrow, in which more than 10,000 volunteers will participate, said Temo Figueroa, national field director for the campaign. “It will be the largest grass-roots-organizing campaign this early in a presidential election.”

More than 2,000 people will march in Iowa, a few hundred in New Hampshire, where the Obama campaign conducted a canvass late last month, about 300 in Nevada, more than 200 in San Francisco and 270 in Oakland, campaign officials said.

Mr. Obama gave special consideration to about 50 volunteers who will march in Utah, saying, “Your work is a testament to that sort of idea that together we can change the country from the bottom up and not the top down. That’s the way change always happens.”

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