A Warm Reception North of the Border
By Shailagh Murray
BROWNSVILLE, Tex. -- After a prayer event today with local evangelical leaders, Sen. Barack Obama made for the border.
From Hope Park in downtown Brownsville, Obama looked across the Rio Grande into Mexico. He joked to reporters, "If you want to make a break for it...," as he strolled along a pathway, his purple tie flipped over his shoulder.
Obama asked his companion, state representative Eddie Lucio III, about border controls and the mutual economic dependency of Brownsville and the sprawling community of Matamoros, across the International Bridge. (Lucio's father, Eddie Lucio Jr., is the local state senator and is supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.)
"This is in some ways, commercially at least, one big metropolitan area," Obama observed.
He said it was his first visit to the border, at least in Texas. "I've been in Mexico when I was in college and was going to school in Southern California. I can't entirely talk about it," the candidate quipped.
The motorcade then sped across town to the Sombrero Festival, a neighborhood carnival. Obama was swarmed by well-wishers from the moment he walked onto the grounds.
"Not just young people are going to vote for you!" shouted Toni Sharpe, standing near the carnival entrance with her daughter, Josie, and three grandchildren, all wearing "Obama SÃ!" buttons.
The senator greeted Mario A. Rodriguez, a principal at a local elementary school. "What do you need? Any funding issues?" Obama asked.
He signed shirts, caps and soccer balls. He signed voter identification cards and plastic prizes. "I saw you in Dallas!" one woman shouted. "Sign my sombrero!" a man yelled. An older gentleman pushed his way through the mob and asked Obama, "Are you for real?" The candidate answered, "Of course I'm for real. That's why I'm here." Kate Bassler, ebullient in the best Texas sense, told Obama, "I love you! I love you! And so does my daughter!"
Finally Obama announced, "I need some taquitos. Where's my taquitos?" He made his way to the ticket window, then cut through the crowd to a food stand, where he bought a messy barbecue-style sandwich. He posed for the cameras while taking a bite, then headed back to the motorcade.
Martin Lael, a McCain supporter, shouted his objections to Obama's stance on Iraq as the candidate walked by. Obama turned to face him. "We can't be talking about withdrawal, sir," said Lael. "I disagree with you on that," Obama responded. "That's what makes it a great country," Lael responded.
Then Obama waved goodbye, smiling broadly, a small piece of beef wedged between his two front teeth.
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