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Southern charm

"Southern charm" Continued...

Issue: "The 2007 Books Issue," June 30, 2007

Obama seemed mindful of another group of voters in Greenville as well: religious voters. The candidate spoke about his work in the 1980s with inner-city churches on Chicago's South Side to revitalize declining neighborhoods: "Our faith requires that we not just preach the Word, but that we act out on the Word."

When considering a run for the Senate, Obama said he did "what any wise man would do: I prayed about it- and then I asked my wife." When criticizing a lack of government services for veterans, Obama asked: "Whatever happened to the notion that I am my brother's keeper? That's not just in the church-that's in the government too." The religious-themed remarks drew "amens" from the crowd.

The candidate emphasized the central issues of his campaign as well. He drew one of the biggest applause lines of the day when he asserted that everyone in the country could have affordable health care "by the end of my first term as president." Campaign aides have estimated that Obama's universal health care program would cost between $50 billion to $65 billion a year, and say it would be financed largely by eliminating tax cuts that President Bush wants to make permanent.

Obama also decried the war in Iraq, declaring: "There will be no military solution to this war." The remark drew mostly cheers, but one ardent war opponent in the crowd interrupted Obama's remarks, shouting that he should vote to de-fund the war if he is against it. The senator pointed out that he opposed the war from the beginning, but didn't respond to the critic's call to vote down war funding.

Obama recovered quickly from the interruption, and ended his speech by assuring the crowd: "I believe our better days are ahead of us, not behind us." The senator then enthusiastically shook hands with clamoring supporters as the sound system pumped out Tina Turner's rock song, "You're Simply the Best."

The next few months will reveal whether Obama can convince a majority of Democrats that he's the best candidate. One thing already is certain: He will face a grueling battle against Clinton, who boasts a sophisticated campaign machine, and who is aggressively courting the minorities Obama depends on for votes. At a conference of 100 black ministers in Chicago in May, Clinton told the group: "I am not ceding any voter, anywhere, to anyone."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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