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CAMPAIGN '08: THE DEMOCRATS

Obama again stirs a big rally

In Colorado, 15,000 cheer as he relies on his theme of change.

November 02, 2008|Michael Finnegan | Finnegan is a Times staff writer.

Pueblo, Colo. — The quaint historic district of this steel-mill town at the foot of the Rockies erupted in a thunderous roar Saturday when Michelle Obama introduced her husband to more than 15,000 people as the "next president of the United States."

"The Rising," Bruce Springsteen's rock anthem, blasted from loudspeakers. The crowd chanted, "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" and "Yes we can!"

The noise swelled once more as Barack Obama bounded onstage, wrapped his arms around his wife, glanced at the throng and reacted just as she had moments before: "Wow."

"What an unbelievable crowd on an unbelievable day," Obama hollered.

City after city produces raucous crowds for the Democratic presidential nominee.

"Colorado, I have just two words for you: Three days!" Obama shouted. It was a variation on his opening line at every stop in the campaign's final week. All in all, not much varies at his events: Nearly everything Obama says flows from his theme of change.

"After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George W. Bush," Obama began, only to be interrupted by boos. "You don't have to boo, you just have to vote," he joked.

It is no small challenge to find new ways to say "change." On Saturday, Vice President Dick Cheney made Obama's task easier than usual.

"I'm delighted to support John McCain," Cheney told a crowd in his home state of Wyoming. "And I'm pleased that he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense, our next vice president . . . Sarah Palin."

Obama's mere mention of Cheney's name led the Pueblo crowd to boo so heartily that he could not resist repeating his one-liner about voting rather than booing.

"I'd like to congratulate Sen. McCain on this endorsement, because he really earned it," Obama said. He called McCain "Washington's biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq" and a champion of President Bush's economic policies.

"But here's my question for you, Colorado: Do you think Dick Cheney is delighted to support John McCain because he thinks John McCain's going to bring change to Washington?"

"Noooooooo!" the crowd shouted back.

"Do you think John McCain and Dick Cheney have been talking about how to shake things up, get rid of the lobbyists, and put Halliburton on the sidelines and put an end to the old boys club in Washington?"

"Nooooooooo!"

"Come on, Colorado. We know better."

As Obama spoke, hundreds in the front ranks of the crowd snapped photos. Others waved blue "Change We Need" signs.

"He's for the hard-working people," said Esther Zapata, a Pueblo nurse in a black cowboy hat whose Obama paraphernalia included a poster, button and fan.

Obama wrapped up by exhorting Pueblo to join him in his quest to change the nation and change the world.

With that, Michelle Obama and the couple's two daughters, Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, joined the candidate onstage for one last round of cheers. Filling the streets of Pueblo as they departed was the beat of a Stevie Wonder hit, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)."

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michael.finnegan @latimes.com

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