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Oprah-Obama rally on Sunday moving to Williams-Brice Stadium

Oprah Winfrey speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for a national memorial to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Washington, D.C., last year. Winfrey is supporting Barack Obama in his bid to be the Democratic presidential candidate.
Oprah Winfrey speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for a national memorial to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Washington, D.C., last year. Winfrey is supporting Barack Obama in his bid to be the Democratic presidential candidate.

The 18,000-seat Colonial Center is just too small.

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign announced Wednesday that Sunday's rally featuring daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey and presidential hopeful Obama will move to the 80,000-seat Williams-Brice Stadium.

The Colonial Center, the original site for the rally, wasn't big enough, they said.

"People are literally camping at the (Obama headquarters) door to try to get tickets," Inez Tenenbaum, former state superintendent of education and an Obama volunteer, said at a news conference Wednesday.

The free event might be worthy of the record books.

"It may be the biggest crowd for a political candidate in South Carolina's history," said Jack Bass, a political scientist at College of Charleston who said Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's visit to Columbia in 1952 during his run for the presidency might be one of the other contenders.

Obama's campaign staffers say they don't expect to fill the stadium, where big names such as the Rev. Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II have appeared over the years. But it does mean the thousands who have e-mailed, called and stopped by headquarters to nab a ticket don't have to worry.

No ticket is needed to gain entry to the stadium. (It also means those offering tickets for sale on eBay for $50 are out of luck.) The weather is expected to cooperate, with temperatures in the 70s expected.

Obama's campaign will shell out up to $80,000 to rent the stadium, compared with about $25,000 for the Colonial Center, said Thomas Paquette, general manager for the Colonial Center who also rents out the stadium.

Many eventgoers say they are coming solely to see Winfrey.

But the junior senator from Illinois will ride her coattails, and political scientists speculate that he stands to benefit.

"There are few people out there who have her kind of star power," Bass said. "She is liked. She is not a controversial person. Her fans are very loyal. If they love Oprah, they may love him too."

Others question whether Winfrey, the nation's wealthiest African-American, can persuade voters in a poor state such as South Carolina to support a candidate.

"I don't want someone coming here to just do a photo opportunity," said Linda Dogan, a member of Spartanburg City Council and a John Edwards supporter. "We have education as a big issue (in South Carolina). We have employment as a big issue. Then, we have this problem with gas and health care. Come here and bring some dollars to South Carolina, and make sure you're contributing something. Don't come here posturing."

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