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Obama claims Wellstone's legacy

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- It was a line that could capture almost any Democratic heart.

"When
I first got to the US Senate, I opened up the drawer of the desk where
I was assigned. And it has the names of some of the great senators who
have served.  They carve their names in their own hand into the desk
drawer, and one of those names was somebody who shared with me this
belief that change doesn't happen from the top down. A guy named Paul
Wellstone..." Barack Obama told the crowd at the Target Center in
Minneapolis yesterday.

Wellstone is a beloved figure of the
Democratic party, but in Minnesota the late senator's home state, the
line resonated among the crowd, who cheered heartily at the mention.

Speaking
to a crowd of 18,000 plus at the Target Center here, where Wellstone's
memorial service was held, Obama cast his own movement for change as
part of the what Wellstone did to energize a liberal electorate across
the country.

"… a guy who helped to create a movement
here in Minnesota, because he believed in you the way I believe in you.
And this is part of that movement of change all throughout America,"
Obama said.

Obama also praised John Edwards as part of the Wellstone tradition.

"We
have had some outstanding candidates. Just this past week, John Edwards
decided to get out of the race, but John ran an outstanding race - he
elevated poverty, talked about the working class. He was true to the
Paul Wellstone tradition."

A liberal electorate in a
progressive state, Minnesota has long been billed as a win by  Obama's
campaign, and the mention of Paul Wellstone certainly won't hurt
Obama's chances in this state. A small peek into the campaign's
organizational efforts was seen by Obama pulling out a caucus supporter
card, something he hasn't done since leaving the first four early
states where his campaign had large operations.  He reminded the crowd
that they need to caucus on Tuesday, and urged them to sign up and let
his campaign know if they were definitely supporting him.

The
crowd at the Target center was packed to the rafters, and Obama had
brought the entire audience to its feet by the end of his speech.  He
dwelled on the power of his "movement" a word he has been using more
frequently, and lauded the youth participation that put him over the
top in Iowa. He told the crowd that despite the pundits' cyncicism, the
participation of voters under 30 matched that of voters over 60
years of age, a first in American history.

He touted his
fundraising operation, telling the crowd that the campaign had 170,000
new donors in January. He didn't mention how much they had raised
however, a whopping $32 million that puts a serious question mark on
any "underdog" status that Obama might claim.

But he
reminded the crowd in Minneapolis that he does face a formidable
opponent and many were taken aback that after winning Iowa, he didn't
sweep to a win in New Hampshire.

"You see people thought
you win one election and suddenly the status quo gives in.  You know,
elect Barack, immediately we'll have racial reconiciliation, poverty
will be over and you know nobody will argue anymore and teenage
children will listen to you," he joked, adding, "And so it was useful to us to recognize that this isn't easy."