Gov. Sebelius endorses Obama for president

Kent Bush

The gymnasium on the campus of the Butler Community College in El Dorado was packed with anxious supporters for more than two hours before Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama arrived Tuesday.

But one of his biggest supporters nearly missed the event due to the bad weather between El Dorado and Topeka.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius may have been delayed, but she was certainly a welcome guest. As Obama wrapped up almost an hour-long speech, he introduced the governor who in turn offered an "enthusiastic endorsement" of Obama for President.

Sebelius' endorsement came hours after she delivered the national response to President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address. Her endorsement came on the heels of an endorsement by the Kennedy family earlier this week and a few hours after 13 Kansas legislators had joined together to offer their support to the only candidate paying much attention to the state.

Building  for Super?Tuesday

His campaign is attempting to build momentum heading into next week's Super Tuesday elections in which 22 states will throw their support behind a Democratic candidate.

Obama told the crowd of more than 2,000 that his campaign didn't buy in to the negative outlook about the country.

"You know, we have been told for many years that we are becoming more divided as a nation. We have been made to believe that differences of race and region; wealth and gender; party and religion have separated us into warring factions; into Red States - that's Kansas" he said with a wry smile. "and Blue states made up of individuals with opposing wants and needs; with conflicting hopes and dreams. It is a vision of America that's been exploited and encouraged by pundits and politicians who need this division to score points and win elections. But it is a vision of America that I am running for President to fundamentally reject  - not because of a blind optimism, but because of a story I've lived."

Grandmother from Augusta

Obama also claims a Kansas heritage that separates him from the other candidates in the race. His grandfather was from El Dorado. His grandmother was from Augusta.

After a stint in the armed forces, they moved their family to Hawaii where Obama's mother met his father, a student from Kenya.

"It's the story of farmers and soldiers, city workers and single moms. It takes place in small towns and in good schools, in Kansas and Kenya, on the shores of Hawaii and in the streets of Chicago," he said. "It's a varied and unlikely journey, but one that's held together by the same simple dream. And that is why it's an American story."

Simple plans, huge dreams

The Illinois senator's platform holds both simple plans and huge dreams.

He proposes an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq - a move he says would end a war he has opposed from the start and save the country $9 billion a month.

Obama proposed tax breaks. But he says his plan differs from that of the President.

"We need to do even more to restore fairness and balance to our economy. We heard the President say that he wanted to make his tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent - again. Well we can't afford more George Bush tax cuts for those who don't need them and weren't even asking for them. It's time to give tax relief to the middle-class families who need it right now."

Tax, education credits

Obama also proposed no income tax on any retiree making less than $50,000 a year, a $4,000 education credit which would be repaid by students working it off in government programs of the Peace Corps, a government backed savings plan that all employers would be forced to participate in, and a tax credit for the middle class that, he believes, would help stave off foreclosures caused by the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis.

The candidate admitted these were lofty and expensive goals, but he said he knows they are reachable if politicians would work together.

"In the end, the choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white," he said. "It's about the past versus the future. It's about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today, or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation; of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity."

Augusta Gazette