Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Obama Rallies Hispanic Voters in Northern New Mexico

Governor Richardson and Barack Obama in Espanola
Photo by Mark Bralley

The 2008 presidential race took a scenic swing through Central and Northern New Mexico on Thursday.

After spending the night in Albuquerque on Wednesday, Democrat Barack Obama met with Native American Tribal Leaders in the morning, ate lunch at a locally owned and operated restaurant in the Town of Bernalillo, and then meandered north, past Santa Fe, to greet anxious supporters in Espanola at a "Change We Need" rally. Most supporters waited for more than three hours under a late, but still hot, summer sun to see their candidate for the first time in person.
AFP reporter shields his computer
an umbrella and waits for Obama.

Just before 2 pm, Obama casually strolled onto the main stage, at the Plaza de Espanola, more than 90 minutes late.

Once comfortably settled in front of his teleprompter, Obama didn’t waste any time talking about today's hot button issue, the growing financial crisis and turmoil in the economy.

"We are in the midst of the most serious financial crisis in a generation. Perhaps the worst since the Great Depression," Obama said. "Everywhere you look, the economic news is troubling. Just this morning, we learned that the Fed had to act with central banks around the world to maintain the functioning of our financial system. But for so many Americans, it isn’t really news at all."

Obama claimed, "600,000 workers have lost their jobs since January. Home values are falling. Your paycheck doesn’t go as far as it used to. It’s never been harder to save or retire; to buy gas or groceries; and if you put it on a credit card, they’ve probably raised your rates,"

"In so many cities and towns across America, it feels as if the dream that so many generations have fought for is slowly slipping away," Obama said.

He also pledged to end the war in Iraq, and vowed he will make sure veterans are honored when they return from their service in the Middle East.

To hear Obama's address click the pink audio play arrow.

Obama was introduced by Governor Bill Richardson.

But it was Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas, who may have gotten the biggest laugh from the crowd, when he thanked them for visiting.

Onlookers without tickets!

“You just doubled the size of Espanola,” Maestas told the large crowd, estimated by the campaign to be around 10,500 people.

Not all of those who came to see Obama were inside the plaza. The campaign said they only printed 7500 tickets, but democrats who wanted to see their candidate found plenty of space, with a view, along side streets.

Obama praised Governor Bill Richardson and Congressional Candidate Ben Ray Lujan, Jr.

"Governor Richardson is one of the finest public servants of his generation," said Obama, who may believe will pick Richardson for a cabinet post if elected in November.

The New Mexico Independent reported:
Gov. Bill Richardson was clearly at ease in front of the friendly audience, joked with the large crowd about the perceived voting irregularities in Rio Arriba County, saying Rio Arriba can guarantee 102 percent of the vote for Obama after November’s election.
Obama put a smile on the face of northern Dem congressional contender Ben Ray Lujan at the start of his 35 minute speech.

Obama Calls Lujan “a hot shot."

Lujan, one of five local speakers at the Rally, said, "We need a leader who will get our country back on track, put our families first, your family first, that leader is Barack Obama. Later Obama recognized Lujan, who faces Republican Dan East, as an "up-and-coming" leader.

Si Se Puedo

Most the battleground states (Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico) have large Hispanic populations, and Obama's trip to Espanola was aimed at shoring up their vote.

"I’m not taking a single Hispanic vote for granted in this campaign. We’re meeting with Hispanic leaders, and reaching out to Hispanic organizations, and holding Hispanic voter registration drives across America. And if you help me organize and get people to the polls to cast their votes on November 4th, then I promise you – we will win New Mexico, we will win this election, and we will change America together, " said Obama.

Salon Magazine writer Mike Madden, who attended the rally, wrote:
In the most closely contested state in the nation, it will all come down to who is better organized -- and whether Obama can get Hispanic voters to the polls.
Obama asked the Hispanic community here "to start actually voting your numbers. Start flexing your muscles. Right here in New Mexico, you'll be the difference maker. Don't stay home -- just remind yourself, si se puede. Yes we can."

During the speech, the Illinois Senator ignored one issue close to Hispanic voters, Abortion. But, earlier in the week, Obama responded to a question on abortion and Hispanic voters with the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Obama, who’s been talking with former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, and his economic advisers says he’ll convene a meeting with his top economic advisors to discuss the passage of a Homeowner and Financial Support Act. Obama says that would establish a more stable and permanent solution than the daily improvisations that have characterized policy-making over the last year.

Obama believes his policies will provide additional capital and liquidity to the financial markets. He pledge to help families to re-structure their mortgages on more affordable terms so they can stay in their homes.

“We’ve made a good start but we need to do much, much more. We cannot forget that there are many homeowners who are in crisis through no fault of their own, and a solution that does not have them at its core is no solution at all.” that does not have them at its core is no solution at all.

NM Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh didn't waste anytime critizing Obama following the event.
His [Obama's] solution for the economy is to raise taxes on everyone, subsidize non productive parts, and torpedo a fragile economy making it worse. Obama’s never had to cover a pay roll, never had to make any executive decisions, and wants New Mexican’s to believe he’s the guy to solve our economic problems. He doesn’t have near the experience to handle the job he’s asking Americans to give him, and more and more people now understand that.
But Obama assured the crowd that if their annual income is below $250,000 their taxes would not increase "a dime."

After leaving the rally, Obama attended a private fundraiser in the North Valley. According to FBIHOP New Mexico the candidate raised another $1.7 million for his war-chest. Last month Obama raised reported over $66 million dollars, and supporters donated another $9 million at a fundraiser with Barbara Streisand earlier this week in California.

It was Obama’s 5th trip New Mexico which has been considered a battle ground state, but two new polls now show Obama-Biden with a healthy (outside the margin of error) lead in the state.

UPDATE: For more photos and videos check out Democracy for New Mexico and two flickr sets here and here.

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