PORTLAND – Presidential hopeful Barack Obama told energized supporters Tuesday that it’s time to embrace “politics of hope” and reject “politics of fear.”
In his first campaign visit to Maine, Obama spoke to about 2,000 people at the Portland Expo about the need for change in government health care, economics and foreign policies. But he said it’s also time for a basic change in the political system so Americans can rally behind a common purpose.
“It’s still possible for us as Americans – not as Democrats, Republicans or independents, but as Americans – to join together and do great things,” he said.
Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, is one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination for president.
His visit came a day after Republican presidential nominee Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, spoke to the National Troopers Coalition fall convention in South Portland.
The hand-clapping, sign-waving crowd that paid $23 apiece for admission cheered repeatedly during Obama’s 35-minute speech. Spectators rose to their feet several times as he gave a laundry list of things he would do if elected president: get America out of Iraq, introduce universal health care, change the tax code, lessen reliance on foreign oil.
America also needs to raise its “moral standing” in the world by being more willing to listen to and negotiate with others, he said. Pundits, he said, accuse him of being naive. Obama doesn’t accept that, but he accepts the moniker of “hope-monger.”
“I stand guilty as charged,” he said.
While his tenure in Washington hasn’t been as long as many politicians, Obama said that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nobody, he said, has longer resumes than Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“A long resume does not guarantee good judgment,” Obama said.
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Summer Johnson said Obama shouldn’t be talking about “moral standing” after sitting out a Senate vote on a resolution that condemned the liberal interest group MoveOn.org for a newspaper ad criticizing Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
“It seems Obama plays to the kind of politics set forth to him by MoveOn.org,” Johnson said.
After the rally, a fundraiser was planned at the Cape Elizabeth home of Robert A.G. Monks, a longtime Republican financier who has run unsuccessfully as a Republican for the U.S. Senate three times. Monks’ son, Robert C.S., is chairman of the Obama for Maine Committee.
Supporters expected to raise more than $300,000 for Obama’s campaign between the rally and the reception, the younger Monks said.