Obama courts voters in Upstate swing

GREENVILLE -- Illinois Sen. Barack Obama invaded the Upstate on Friday, bringing his patently American message of hope and unity to this voter-rich part of the state for the first time.

Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, waded into a rally of about 3,500 cheering supporters at Greenville Technical College, delivering his message of empower- ment and change to voters here.

"Look at this crowd! I know some of you thought there was a sale in the mall today," Obama said to the beaming crowd. "All we're selling here today is hope, change and a new kind of politics."

Greenville Technical College is located in a former mall on the city's east side.

Obama delivered his standard stump speech, calling for an end to the war in Iraq, and for using the billions of dollars spent there to instead improve schools at home, raise teacher salaries, upgrade health care and stabilize Social Security.

"I like what he says, and I think we can believe what he says," said 70-year-old Doris Meissner of Greenville. "That's important to me."

Meissner and her husband, John, 75, brought copies of Obama's books, "The Audacity of Hope" and "Dreams From My Father," hoping to get them autographed, but standing at least 15 rows back from the stage, had no luck.

John Meissner said he was a Republican until President George W. Bush was elected in 2000, and now he would like to see an Obama-Clinton Democratic ticket in 2008, referring to Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York as a vice presidential running mate for Obama.

Clinton leads Obama in all South Carolina polls and major national polls, and her lead has been expanding lately.

Obama stopped in Greenwood, Spartanburg and Greenville Friday, and did a radio call-in on public radio in Columbia. In Spartanburg, he spoke about the need to strengthen families and support fatherhood. In Greenwood, he picked up an endorsement from state Rep. Anne Parks, D-Greenwood.

Obama's midafternoon rally in the most Republican part of a Republican state drew a rainbow of enthusiastic supporters, who said they understood why he came to South Carolina's Upstate.

"Because he's smart -- very smart," said 21-year-old Jasmine Adams of Piedmont, a language interpretation student at Greenville Tech who had a spot in the front row.

"Half the black vote here is gonna vote for (Sen. John) Edwards, because he's from South Carolina. By coming here, he is going to influence some of those votes."