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Fredericksburg's Population Doubles With Obama Rally

Tim Craig

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?

By Tim Craig  |  September 28, 2008; 12:11 AM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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Comments

I drove around the neighborhood this event was held in three times between the time the gates were closed (5:15) and Obama/Biden finally showed (7:00). No way were there 14,000 turned away, not close to half that. It's impossible to be at all precise without a helicopter (which the police didn't have) as the area is a honeycomb of suburban streets.

But if you're going to take the local public officials' word for such things, then Palin drew 60,000 by herself last week in The Villages, FL (not the 20,000 figure peddled by the Obama campaign) and the GOP event in Faifax City did indeed draw 23,000.

Posted by: Threedy | September 28, 2008 1:57 AM | Report abuse

I was one of those 14,000 that didn't make it in. It was heart-warming to see all those people waiting in line getting rained on and all the while knowing they would never make it into the actual event. Why does it bother the McCain folks so much that Obama can draw big crowds? Can you imagine if it had been a bigger arena and no rain? People are just sick and tired of the Republicans claiming that the rich need benefits so that the money will trickle down to everyone. Guess what, that never worked. In the end not even the rich people benefitted. It's time for a change. We can never elect a President that would joke about bombing Iran and killing innocent civilians. Candidate McCain doesn't even support legislation that Senator McCain sponsored. The Republicans have run this country into the ground and McCain says the fundamentals of the economy are strong. Oh really? Senator Obama is a breath of fresh air and he'll set us back on track and restore our dignity around the globe.

Posted by: LeeFromVA | September 28, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I have stated in several blogs the following thought...What ever happened to "We the People, in Order to Form a More Perfect Union"...

Not one comment I have read in the following days picked up on my thought. We are those feelings? We are the people?

The size of a gathering at a rally may be a deciding factor on who to vote for for some? What needs to be in the forefront for voters is who has the best chance of getting America to where she once was.

Please stay in touch with both camps thoughts on what they say they can do for our beloved country. We are losing face with other countries. Make your decision as to the candidate who is best equipped to do the job.

Enough of that, just make your vote count. It is important is these days and times. I know I am voting. Good luck to both candidates.

Posted by: Glen of Fredericksburg | September 28, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

What's this about the Obama people banning signs at this rally? Are they against free speech? The reason given was that signs present a security threat, but security countered that there would only be a threat if the sign contained a weapon...
I believe that the Obama people are so worried about their image that they want to keep all dissidents away. 'Sounds like a dictatorship already.

Posted by: cpabooks | September 29, 2008 2:46 AM | Report abuse

I saw lots of signs at the Obama Rally at the University of Mary Washington on Saturday both inside the rally area and outside on the surrounding streets. Where does cpabooks get the information about banning signs. The signs I saw were hand held but they are still signs.

Posted by: one who was there | September 29, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I had a wonderful time with Obama in the rain. there were plenty of signs inside also. Why do McCain supports cry about the size of the crowds...so 2nd grade really.

Kinda like Mccain campaign these days I guess.

Obama!

Posted by: Kel | September 29, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

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