Thursday, September 18, 2008
Obama Tells New Mexico Crowd To Get Out and Vote
By Barry Massey
ESPANOLA Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama delivered a message of economic hope and change to an enthusiastic crowd Thursday in northern New Mexico.
"In the next 47 days you can fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other-way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path," Obama said in addressing an outdoor rally. "Put someone in there who is going to fight for you."
Authorities estimated the crowd at 9,500, which is equal to the city's population.
Obama pledged to restore the nation's ailing economic health, saying the current financial crisis was the nation's worst since the Great Depression and hurting average Americans.
"What we have seen in the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed," said Obama. "I am running for president of the United States because the dreams of the American people can't be endangered any more."
He ended his 35-minute speech with an appeal to Hispanics to turn out and vote in the Nov. 4 general election. Hispanics account for nearly two-fifths of the state's voting age population.
"To the Hispanic community, I want you to start actually voting your numbers. Start flexing your muscle. Right here in New Mexico you'll be the difference maker. Don't stay home. Just remind yourselves, Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede!" Obama said, using a Spanish phrase meaning, "Yes, we can." It was a rallying cry of Cesar Chavez, who formed the United Farm Workers Union.
People arrived hours early and waited in a long line to pass through security before being allowed on the community plaza. Some people stood in the sun for more than four hours before Obama spoke in the early afternoon.
"He makes you feel good. He makes you feel safe," said Alice Gallegos of Santa Cruz.
Her 76-year-old husband, Robert, pointed to a large banner with the word, "Change," that hung behind the platform on which Obama spoke.
"What's it say on that sign? That's what we need," he said.
Obama was the first presidential candidate to appear in northern New Mexico in decades.
Ramon Naranjo, 80, a lifelong resident of Española, recalled Democrat John Kennedy campaigning in the area in 1960 to appeal — like Obama — to the Hispanic population. He liked Obama's focus on the economy.
"Everything is looking bad. You can see it," he said. "We have a lot of people who need help."
Obama appeared on stage in a white dress shirt, with his sleeves rolled up and wearing no tie. Near the end of his speech, one person in the audience fainted and was taken away on a stretcher, treated on site and then released.
Gov. Bill Richardson introduced Obama and urged voters to make certain they cast ballots in the election. Absentee voting starts Oct. 7, by mail and in person at county clerk's offices.
"In this campaign, the Hispanic voter in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada is going to decide this election," said Richardson.
Española is about 30 miles north of Santa Fe in Rio Arriba County, a traditional Democratic stronghold. Hispanics accounted for 73 percent of the voting age population and 12 percent were Native Americans, according to the most recent census.
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