Stumping for Obama: Kansas governor says right time, right place
By Mark Wineka
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a rising star in the Democratic Party, said presidential candidate Barack Obama is the person who can transform the country after “the worst administration in history.”
“He has arrived at the right place at the right time,” said Sebelius, who ended a day of campaigning for Obama in North Carolina with a stop in downtown Salisbury Thursday night.
The second-term Kansas governor said Obama has the three characteristics that can change Washington: He’s motivational, inspirational and “someone who can deliver,” she said.
Sebelius, 59, came to the nation’s attention earlier this year when she gave the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address.
In 2005, Time magazine named her one of the nation’s five best governors. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, considered her as a possible running mate, and her campaigning for Obama suggests that she might be in running-mate or Cabinet-level consideration again, should Obama win.
She also could opt to run as a U.S. Senate candidate in Kansas in 2010.
Sebelius told her Salisbury crowd of about 75 people Thursday night that of 10 contests left before the Democratic National Convention, North Carolina looms as one of the more critical. And if Obama is the party’s nominee, she said, he will be president.
“It’s time for North Carolina to show up,” she said.
Numerous states that the U.S. senator from Illinois has won during the primary and caucus season, U.S Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York can’t, Sebelius said. But all the states Clinton has claimed, Obama would win in November, she added.
Sebelius spoke in the Heritage Room at 118 E. Council St. to a diverse crowd in age and skin color. The Kansas governor said Obama, on the inspirational side, is tapping into the hearts, souls and minds of Americans.
People are being touched, she added, and he has brought back to the electoral process a generation of voters that was being lost.
Evidence of how he motivates people is what’s happening at the polls, the governor said. Record numbers are showing up in primaries and at caucuses because Obama’s in the race, she contended.
Fundraising offers another example of how he’s motivating people, Sebelius said.
A recent fundraising drive over the Internet had 400,000 Obama contributors, of which half were giving money to a political candidate for the first time, Sebelius said.
While other campaigns have relied on “fat-cat” givers who considered themselves as making an investment, Sebelius said, Obama has averaged $95 per contributor, and millions of people are giving money because they want to participate.
Sebelius said she has the belief that Obama can deliver because of his record as a state and U.S. senator and that he was the only candidate right about Iraq from the beginning ó how it was the wrong place at the wrong time to become involved in a war.
As a leader, the governor said, Obama “will talk to people before we shoot at them, and that’s a pretty good idea.”
Sebelius endorsed Obama a week before the Kansas Democratic caucus on Super Tuesday. Obama won Kansas with more than 70 percent of the Democratic vote.
Kansas, traditionally a Republican state, has a 27 percent Democratic registration, Sebelius said. Only twice in its history has Kansas favored a Democratic candidate in a presidential election.
But Sebelius, a former state House member and state insurance commissioner, has found a way to reach across party lines to win election as governor two times.
When she heard Obama talking about bringing people together, it struck a chord because that’s how she has to work every day, Sebelius said.
The country needs him to break through the partisan paralysis in Washington, she added.
The Kansas governor first heard of Obama when he was a state senator in Illinois. His mother and grandparents are from Kansas, meaning he was raised by pragmatic Midwesterners, she said.
He showed through his own life experiences how education can be transformational, and never has there been a time in the country’s history in which it has needed more of a transformation, Sebelius said.
Obama’s campaign has put an emphasis on voter registration, which winds up today.
‘Barack Your Block’
Marcus Ryan, the local Obama field organizer, told many in the crowd who are volunteers how the coming weeks will be devoted to telephone banks, canvassing and neighborhood organizing, whose theme is “Barack Your Block.”
“We’re going to be hitting the ground hard,” Ryan said.
Sebelius fielded several questions and observations from the audience and blended her answers with what she knows of Obama and her own experiences in Kansas.
Questions touched on issues such as health care, education, foreign relations, energy, the Veterans Administration, immigration and Obama’s background in constitutional law.
One questioner noted that Obama receives a low rating from voters on his foreign policy experience.
Sebelius said Obama’s life experience should not be discounted when it comes to foreign affairs.
He is the only candidate remaining to have lived in a foreign country. He has wide-ranging travel and educational experiences abroad. He is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And Sebelius said Obama has good sense and judgment on foreign matters, as demonstrated by his position on Iraq.
“That, to me, is a qualifier,” she said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisbury post.com.