The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 30, 2008

Obama campaign speech draws hundreds to city

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama brought his message of change to Johnstown on Saturday, telling an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,200 that he is the right person to transform Washington.

Obama, locked in a fierce political battle with fellow U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, covered a wide range of topics at a “town hall meeting” at Greater Johnstown High School’s gym.

But he repeatedly returned to what has been the central theme of his campaign: The federal government is broken, and he can fix it.

“We’ve got to send a message to Washington that says, ‘enough is enough,’ ” Obama said.

The Illinois senator, just 46 years old, said he is running for president because of “the fierce urgency of now” – a line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

And he declared his independence from “special interests” and lobbyists, saying they are “part of what’s wrong with Washington.”

In what has become an ongoing war of words, however, Clinton spokesman Mark Nevins countered that Obama has collected plenty of cash from lobbyists and political action committees in prior campaigns.

“The Obama rhetoric does not often match the Obama actions,” Nevins said Saturday.

Hillary Clinton has enjoyed a warm reception in Pennsylvania and in Cambria County, where powerful Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha is among those endorsing her.

But Obama received several standing ovations as he spoke and answered questions about his plans for the war in Iraq, national security, education, health care, energy independence and the economy.

n On Iraq, Obama – like Clinton – is advocating a withdrawal of U.S. troops. In interviews Saturday, Obama said a “clear time frame for withdrawal” would make the Iraqi government take control and would help resolve ongoing violence.

n His health-care plan would lower premiums for those who have insurance, Obama said.

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