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Obama Claims Wellstone's Legacy

Aswini Anburajan

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- It was a line that could capture almost any Democratic heart.

0203 03"When I first got to the US Senate, I opened up the drawer of the desk where I was assigned. And it has the names of some of the great senators who have served. They carve their names in their own hand into the desk drawer, and one of those names was somebody who shared with me this belief that change doesn't happen from the top down. A guy named Paul Wellstone..." Barack Obama told the crowd at the Target Center in Minneapolis yesterday.

Wellstone is a beloved figure of the Democratic party, but in Minnesota the late senator's home state, the line resonated among the crowd, who cheered heartily at the mention.

Speaking to a crowd of 18,000 plus at the Target Center here, where Wellstone's memorial service was held, Obama cast his own movement for change as part of the what Wellstone did to energize a liberal electorate across the country.

"... a guy who helped to create a movement here in Minnesota, because he believed in you the way I believe in you. And this is part of that movement of change all throughout America," Obama said.

Obama also praised John Edwards as part of the Wellstone tradition.

"We have had some outstanding candidates. Just this past week, John Edwards decided to get out of the race, but John ran an outstanding race - he elevated poverty, talked about the working class. He was true to the Paul Wellstone tradition."

A liberal electorate in a progressive state, Minnesota has long been billed as a win by Obama's campaign, and the mention of Paul Wellstone certainly won't hurt Obama's chances in this state. A small peek into the campaign's organizational efforts was seen by Obama pulling out a caucus supporter card, something he hasn't done since leaving the first four early states where his campaign had large operations. He reminded the crowd that they need to caucus on Tuesday, and urged them to sign up and let his campaign know if they were definitely supporting him.

The crowd at the Target center was packed to the rafters, and Obama had brought the entire audience to its feet by the end of his speech. He dwelled on the power of his "movement" a word he has been using more frequently, and lauded the youth participation that put him over the top in Iowa. He told the crowd that despite the pundits' cyncicism, the participation of voters under 30 matched that of voters over 60 years of age, a first in American history.

He touted his fundraising operation, telling the crowd that the campaign had 170,000 new donors in January. He didn't mention how much they had raised however, a whopping $32 million that puts a serious question mark on any "underdog" status that Obama might claim.

But he reminded the crowd in Minneapolis that he does face a formidable opponent and many were taken aback that after winning Iowa, he didn't sweep to a win in New Hampshire.

"You see people thought you win one election and suddenly the status quo gives in. You know, elect Barack, immediately we'll have racial reconiciliation, poverty will be over and you know nobody will argue anymore and teenage children will listen to you," he joked, adding, "And so it was useful to us to recognize that this isn't easy."

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