Obama Campaign Stop: Cincinnati

Dateline: Mon 25 Feb 2008

CINCINNATI - Nobody left their campaign signs behind.

13,000 people packed the Fifth Third Arena today at the University of Cincinnati, and not one "Change We Can Believe In" sign was discarded as litter.

Instead, those who received the navy blue placards clutched them, as if they were precious. Some took photos of friends holding them aloft. Others asked Obama staffers for, "just one more. Please. For my Husband."

This is historic.

As columnist Leonard Pitts said today, Barack Obama is not running a campaign. He's rallying a movement.

That was apparent during Sen. Obama's stop in Cincinnati Monday. People waited an hour or more in wet gray icy cold to hear the candidate.

Clever Obama staffers took advantage: "We'll have five busses after Sen. Obama's speech. We can take you to the voting center. You can vote today," a volunteer told the crowd.

It felt initially like a children's crusade, students chatted on cell phones; one girl joked that it was like a rave.

But non-students quick massed, older blacks and whites. A dog trotted past with a sign on his low-slung body: "Bassets for Obama".

Once assembled inside, this crowd fanned out and looked like a beautiful mosaic of the nation: old, young, black, white, men, women, babies. What other event could possibly draw such a cross section?

The student next to me took notes.

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"This place is gonna get packed out," he said, as the upper decks filled. "Wow. That's awesome. That says a lot." Cincinnait, he said, is a "pretty Republican city" although Mayor Mark Mallory is a Democrat and a super delegate. He announced his support for Obama at the rally.

And the candidate? He gave a generous speech, an hour, with no surprises, but with plenty of applause lines. "Yes we can!" the crowd yelled. "Ohio Obama!"

Afterward he spent 30 minutes circling the perimeter shaking hands.

And 13,000 people slowly, patiently, left. Many knew they had taken part in history.

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