Barack Obama apologized Thursday for his last-minute decision to postpone a visit to Rock Hill, saying a busy day of Senate votes on Iraq required him to be in Washington.
About a dozen people showed up at the Freedom Center in downtown, where the Democratic presidential hopeful was supposed to host a town hall-style meeting at 12:30 p.m. Campaign volunteers stood at the door to offer their regrets and hand out Obama bumper stickers.
A short time later, Obama called Charlotte's Q92.7 FM to tell listeners he'll be back soon, though the campaign has not said whether the venue would again be the Freedom Center.
"I'm just sorry I'm not in Rock Hill," Obama said. "We ended up having some votes on this Iraq war here in Washington, D.C. That's such an important issue. We've got to try to get our troops home. And so we had to postpone the rally."
The Iraq votes ended in time for Obama to fly to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon for a fundraiser and rally at the Georgia World Congress Center and a private $1,000-per-head event afterward.
Other Democratic contenders were in Davenport, Iowa, for a healthcare forum hosted by AARP.
In Rock Hill, most of the 1,500 ticket-holders got word of the postponement through a recorded phone message and e-mail alert. One woman who missed the memo said she understood Obama needed to be in Washington.
"We felt like that was more important," said Yvette Wilson, who drove from Concord, N.C. "He has a job to do, and that takes priority."
A short news release about the cancellation went out at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, with South Carolina staffers saying they got word only moments before.
Obama's Washington office thought the Iraq votes would be taken earlier in the day -- allowing Obama to fly here on time. But the schedule didn't work out that way. That kind of last-minute shuffling is routine in a presidential race, a staffer for another campaign said.
"Every day is fairly unpredictable," said Elliott Bundy, regional communications director for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. "You begin the day with a plan for what you'd like to accomplish. Whether you actually accomplish it remains to be seen. There are only so many factors that you can control, day in and day out."
In Washington, Obama supported an amendment that would have pulled U.S. troops from Iraq by June 30, 2008. At that point, U.S. military funding would be cut off. Opponents have assailed a timeline for withdrawal as tantamount to admitting failure. The measure failed as expected.
"We're spending $10 billion a month that could be spent on building schools and providing scholarships to kids," Obama told Charlotte radio host Jaye Delai. "One of the things I'm proud of is that I opposed this war from the start ... I said it was a bad idea."
Obama didn't cast a vote on another controversial bill Thursday. The Senate condemned an advertisement by the liberal anti-war group MoveOn.org that accused the top U.S. military commander in Iraq of betrayal.
President Bush said more Democrats "are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org ... than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal."
The Senate's "focus should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements," Obama said.