Obama brings campaign to NJ for Wednesday rally

(AP) Sen. Barack Obama brought his presidential campaign to New Jersey on Wednesday, taking his fight for the Democratic nomination for president to the backyard of his chiefrival - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"People are standing up. They're shouting out and shoutingclear that the time for change has come," Obama said.

"We are at a defining moment in our history," he said. "Ournation is at war. Our planet is in peril. The dream that so manygenerations fought for is slipping away."

The Illinois lawmaker spoke to nearly 2,000 at an afternoonrally at St. Peter's College in Jersey City. He was also scheduledto attend a private fundraiser in New York, Clinton's adopted homestate, on Wednesday night.

Obama started the event late, but said that was because hegreeted the some 500 people outside who couldn't get into the smallbasketball arena at the Yanitelli Center.

Among those waiting outside was Ida Yongo, 45, a native of Kenyawho lives in northern New Jersey.

"So many people are talking about change. I want to see what hehas to say," she said.

Daphne Dixon, 40, of Jersey City, said she admired Obama'sconsistent message.

"He stands up for what he believes in. He's his own man," shesaid. "Hillary is just going to be a continuation of BillClinton."

Obama's campaign, riding high after he defeated Clinton and JohnEdwards in Thursday's Iowa caucuses, saw its momentum bluntedsomewhat in New Hampshire, where Clinton upset Obama on Tuesday,resurrecting her bid for the White House.

"We are in a position where we had some good results in Iowa,and we want to keep building on that momentum," said MarkAlexander, New Jersey state director of the Obama campaign,speaking Tuesday before the New Hampshire results were known."We've been focusing on the early states, and we want to be reallyprepared in New Jersey and elsewhere to show everybody we can carrythis through to the nomination."

New Jersey is one of 22 states holding primaries or caucuses onFeb. 5.

Obama has consistently run a distant second to Clinton in NewJersey polls. The most recent survey, taken in December by theQuinnipiac University Polling Institute, had Clinton at 51 percent,compared to 17 percent for Obama and 7 percent for Edwards.

Assemblyman Neil Cohen, a Union County Democrat and an earlyObama supporter, said such polls became irrelevant after Obama wonIowa.

"Obama's been proving points steadily," said Cohen. "No onethought he could raise money, and he's now at $90 million, which iseither close to her, tied with her or in the same ballpark. No onethought he could put together these grassroots organizations. Theseorganizations are everywhere, and they've been working quietlybehind the scenes since February."

Alexander said any result is possible in New Jersey.

"We don't think anybody should take any state or any voter forgranted," said Alexander. "There is every reason to believe wecan do well in New Jersey. This (rally) is to tell everybody we aregoing to run for the presidency of the United States and New Jerseyis an important state for us."

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to an e-mailmessage for comment Tuesday.

Obama last campaigned in New Jersey in October, when he hosted arally for about 600 people in Newark. He stressed his opposition tothe war in Iraq and focus on health care and education during a45-minute address.

He was also in the Garden State in May, speaking to labor unionmembers in Trenton about the need for affordable health insurancefor all Americans.

In October 2006, he campaigned on behalf of Sen. RobertMenendez, who was running for U.S. Senate against state Sen. TomKean Jr.

Obama has also tapped the Garden State for campaign cash.

He has raised $1.8 million here through September, the secondhighest total among Democratic candidates. Clinton has raised themost of any candidate of either party, $3.4 million, according tothe Federal Election Commission Web site.For Obama?s full speech, go to channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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