The Democratic presidential campaign trail snowplowed through Grand Junction on Saturday with Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius headlining an event for Sen. Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Clinton supporters gathered for a pre-caucus planning session.Sebelius spoke to an overflow crowd of more than 150 people at Obama headquarters in Grand Junction. In an area where Democrats are outnumbered two to one by Republicans, Sebelius stressed that the Illinois senator would appeal to voters across party lines.
“Sen. Obama is uniquely suited to bring us together again as Americans,” Sebelius said. “He has focused his lens on the needs of Middle America and he’ll break the partisan paralysis in Washington.”
Sebelius gave the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union Address last week and has been named as a potential vice-presidential candidate.
Obama supporters at the rally agreed with Sebelius’ assessment.
“I used to be a Republican,” one man said. “Hillary Clinton is great, but maybe too divisive. I think Obama’s message is crossing political lines — I know, Republicans have told me.”
Two friends, Marilyn and Kathy, thought that Obama seems to be speaking on behalf of all people. “The fear factor isn’t working anymore,” Kathy said. “People are thirsting for leadership.”
At the Clinton gathering, Mary Beth Pyle, chairperson of the Mesa County Democratic Party and a supporter of the New York senator, was looking forward to the caucuses. She admitted Clinton may have less crossover appeal than Obama in western Colorado, but was excited that the presidential race has gone beyond race or sex. “It has been a long time coming for a woman to fill the job as president,” Pyle said.
A Clinton campaign organizer, Brian Indovina, assured the group that Clinton would hold her own against Obama in Mesa County. “We’ll probably end up splitting the delegates in half,” he predicted.
Although Obama campaign ads on TV and radio have been running in Grand Junction all week, Indovina thought that Clinton may have a TV ad up by Monday.
With precinct caucus attendance expected to double, a precinct leader wondered if a large turnout, especially for Obama, might turn the Democratic caucus into an adversarial process.
“I don’t think we have to worry about fighting at the caucus level,” Pyle assured Clinton supporters, “we’re Democrats.”
“However,” Indovina added, “there will be a hot line Tuesday night so anyone with issues about their caucus can get advice.”
Top: Sebelius makes a stop at Obama headquarters in Grand Junction. Middle: Obama headquarters. Bottom: Clinton supporter. Photos by Leslie Robinson