In La Crosse, Obama says it's time for action on bailout

Obama in La Crosse
Sen. Barack Obama gestures as he speaks to a crowd in La Crosse, Wis. Obama called for action on a proposed $700 billion bailout package for the financial industry.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says it's time for Congress "to take some clear action" on a financial rescue for Wall Street.

Speaking to a crowd in downtown La Crosse, Obama has warned that the $700 billion financial industry bailout is not just for Wall Street, but to keep the American economy afloat.

Obama spent the last day calling rank-and-file Democrats rallying support for the legislation, aides say. Obama also has called publicly for Congress to quickly pass the legislation "to prevent a crisis from turning into a catastrophe."

Sen. Barack Obama
Sen. Barack Obama speaks to a crowd in La Crosse, Wis.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

Obama will go to Washington to vote on the $700 billion package Wednesday before heading to Michigan, a key battleground state.

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Hundreds of people lined up this morning to see Obama speak. Some were bundled up in jackets and gloves, as they braved 40-degree temperatures.

Steve Carlyon of La Crosse took the day off work to attend the rally. He said he has never attended a political rally before today. He said the country needs change.

"A lot of people are undecided [in La Crosse] and emotions are running high on both sides. I don't try to persuade anyone to vote a certain way, but when I do talk politics, I talk about Obama," Carlyon said.

Carlyon isn't the only newcomer at the event.

Barack Obama
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama arrives yesterday in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Later today Obama will head to Washington for the Senate vote on the Wall Street bailout plan, his campaign announced.

Electricians, high school students and retirees also bundled up in the cold to hear Obama speak.

Dan Loenhegen, an electrician from Stoddard, Wis., said while he knows some people in western Wisconsin will vote Republican, he believes the majority of the state will vote for Obama.

Amanda Richardson goes to Central High School. She said her parents vote Republican, and they were surprised by her support of Obama.

"My mom was disappointed with me and my sister for coming. She wants us to be Republicans, but so many of our peers are Democrats I guess it's rubbed off," Richardson said.

From left, William Krumbach, Amanda Richardson, Michelle Thornsen and Dan Benjamin are high school students. They arrived at 7 a.m. to hear Sen Barack Obama speak in La Crosse.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

Richardson said she can't vote yet, but she is encouraging her 18-year-old friends to vote for whomever they choose.

William Krumbach and Dan Benjamin also took off school, they say they're encouraging their friends to vote for Obama.

Local Democratic party officials expected at least 8,000 people to attend the rally. La Crosse County Democratic Chair Fabio Burgos said the Obama campaign had been working hard to turn out the vote in what he called a swing area.

"This has always been a fertile area for swing voters but it's been trending Democratic in recent years," Burgos said.

Shaking hands
Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands with supporters at a campaign rally in La Crosse, Wis.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

Burgos also said the Obama campaign probably targeted La Crosse because it's located in a battleground state, and next to two others. Iowa and Minnesota are within a short driving distance from the Mississippi River community.

Both the Obama campaign and Republican John McCain's campaign have been focusing time and money in these three states.

This is Obama's third visit to Wisconsin since he accepted the Democratic nomination in late August.


(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)