Fredericksburg's Population Doubles With Obama Rally
University of Mary Washington Police Chief James C. Snipes confirms more than 25,000 peopled showed up for Sen. Barack Obama's rally today on the campus's main square.
After consulting with the fire marshal, Snipes estimates that 12,000 people passed through security to get into the square while another 14,000 were left out.
If accurate, Obama supporters doubled the population of the Fredericksburg today.
Earlier this month, GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) held a large rally in Fairfax City. McCain campaign officials estimate 23,000 people showed up, although some have questioned that number.
But the size of the two rallies highlight how there is genuine excitement among partisans on both sides, laying the groundwork for a pitched struggle between now and Nov. 4.
They also raise one obvious question: How large will these rallies grow during final weeks of the campaign?
Based on interviews at today's rally, those who arrived at the campus before 2:30 p.m. made it into the rally before it reached capacity at around 4:45 p.m. Those who arrived at 3 p.m. or later were stuck in a line that stretched more than a mile through the campus.
Some of those unable to get through security probably scattered once a fierce thunderstorm passed overhead around 5 p.m. But others stood in the rain near the perimeter to hear what they could. Even William (Bill) H. Leighty, Governor Timothy M. Kaine's former chief of staff, had trouble making it into the rally once it reached capacity.
Neither Kaine (D) nor Democratic Senate nominee Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) attended the rally; both were campaigning in the southern part of the state.
Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) served as the warm-up act. Houck gave a very forceful speech in support of Obama, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
But when he took the stage 90 minutes later, Obama mispronounced Houck's name while recognizing him.
Despite that slip-up and a persistent light rain, Obama made it clear his sights are set on winning Virginia's 13 electoral votes.
"It is a thrill to be here back in Virginia because I think we may just turn Virginia blue this time," Obama said to thunderous applause.
It's hard to see how the sheer size of today's turnout is anything other than another sign that Virginia could be very close on Election Day. Obama's campaign recruited hundreds of volunteers, registered new voters, and those who attended appeared energized for the final sprint to the election.
Why else would anyone stand in an open field surrounded by metal barriers during an electrical storm?
September 28, 2008; 12:11 AM ET
Categories: Tim Craig
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