Supporters insist Obama run for president

People said his ability to bring people together makes him a good candidate.

Justin Horwath

Amid an enthusiastic crowd of supporters Saturday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak endorsed an online grassroots political movement calling for Barak Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, to run for president in 2008.

The www.draftobama.org movement went national within weeks of being launched in October by computer technician Ben Stanfield of Rockville, Md..

Rybak said he supports the Web site because it’s about “citizens leading politicians” and bringing attention to a strong politician.

“I agree strongly with him on issues such as getting out of Iraq and the need for energy independence,” he said. “The part that is most important is that it is a message of hope and healing that is so different than the name-calling and divisiveness in our nation.”

At the rally, Rybak encouraged a crowd of about 40 people to augment the growing movement, suggesting that each participant invite 10 friends to sign the online petition, in what he called “a giant political Tupperware party.”

“We’re tired of the old way of doing things,” Rybak said. “The best campaigns are the ones that start from the grassroots.”

The crowd took off on a frigid 90-minute trek around the Uptown area, carrying Obama signs, ardently chanting and handing out pamphlets to any receptive bystanders.

Paul Provost, Minnesota coordinator of the movement, said this campaign is a lot of work, but a lot of fun.

“We want to get out and shake as many hands as possible,” he said.

Frequent car horns and shouts greeted the crowd as they marched, but Minneapolis resident and self-described ’60s political activist, Melaney Spenrock, said she is skeptical of the movement.

“The activism was good to see, but I’m not sold on Obama yet,” she said.

The Obama supporters were a mix of young and old from the Twin Cities area. Their reasons for supporting the senator varied; many of them cited his charisma, personality and ability to bring people together.

Minneapolis resident Lori Schneiderhan said she likes Obama because he can inspire such a wide variety of people.

“There’s an indefinable element about him; he’s smart, positive and inspirational,” she said.

Political science junior Sean Olson said he attended the rally because he likes Obama’s stance on education, anti-torture legislation and his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

“His main line (at the speech) was that there are no red states, there are no blue states, but there is the United States,” Olson said. “He’s also a younger candidate; college students need to be re-inspired.”

Some students on the other side of the political spectrum have their doubts about Obama. Bethany Dorobiala, political science junior and chairwoman of the College Republicans, said she is interested in what Obama has to offer Minneapolis.

“My reaction to Barak Obama is that he is an experience, and I think that Rybak’s endorsement of Obama is interesting,” she said.