Last Friday's $25 a ticket fundraiser raked in $200,000 for Barack Obama's campaign. That might be a drop in the ocean compared to the $3 million Oprah raised at her Obama fundraiser the next day, but it also is a sign of the Illinois senator's ability to attract donations from less-wealthy supporters, as well as the Hollywood crowd.
So far, in fact, Obama has been keeping pace with his main fundraising rival Hillary Clinton. Campaign figures for the second quarter of 2007 showed Obama raised $32.8 million compared to Clinton's $27 million. In the first quarter, Clinton raised more than Obama, $26 million compared to $25 million. The third Democratic frontrunner, John Edwards, raised $12 million in the first quarter and $9 million in the second quarter.
State Rep. Chip Shields and his wife, Shelda Holmes listen to Obama speak.
Oregon State Rep. Chip Shields was one of a small group of supporters who helped bring Obama to Oregon. Shields said Obama's rally kicked off the Oregon Democratic primary campaign season.
"I think he has a very good chance of winning," Shields said. "It will depend just how much ordinary everyday people get involved in his campaign. He's not taking any (Political Action Committee) or corporate dollars whereas some of the other major campaigns are. So it will require thousands and thousands of people to give $25 to $100."
Fundraising is crucial because it takes a lot of money to conduct a successful campaign. Travel, living expenses, campaign materials and staff salaries are among many necessary expenses. Television and radio ads cost plenty. And even volunteers need staff support, a base to work from and some living expenses.
Russell Danielson, CEO of Providence Health System and Terry Danielson attended a fundraiser for Obama Barack last Friday.
In national polls, Obama is running points behind Hillary Clinton and ahead of John Edwards. However, it still is early in the race.
Marie Upshaw, a caseworker with teens in foster care said she would like to see Obama win the Democratic nomination.
"He has the ground roots experience," she said. "He worked with the people and that's really important. He knows the issues that are important to the common man and woman, not the corporations. I think a lot of politicians forget that. They are so used to their million-dollar backers that they forget the person who is working for $7.40 an hour."
Wardell Gibson, a credit consultant with Northwest Business Advisors, who is campaigning for Obama, said he has a widespread appeal that crosses party lines.
"I'm an African American but I'm not backing him because he's an African American," Gibson said. "He's raised more money than anybody ever, so that has to translate to votes down the road for sure. I think he's electable."
Gibson said in a recent poll of all Iowa voters, Obama came in third among Republican voters.
Mytien Huynh and James Kent were among the crowd listening to Barack Obama speak Friday.
"I thought that was very, very interesting," Gibson said. "If the work we're doing for Barack Obama bears fruit and he's the nominee then I think hands down he's going to become president of the United States. I don't see any Republican challenger being able to carry his water at all."
Gibson said that he did not believe racism would hold Obama back.
"A lot of people see him as a person who can bridge some of these racial gaps because he seems to have a crossover appeal," Gibson said. "I think there are enough good hearted people to rise above racism — because it is going to be there — to get him elected. I really believe that."
Marie Upshaw made a similar point. "Of course as an African American woman it is exciting to me to see such a dynamic African American male reach out and be embraced by so many.
"My co-workers are very excited about Obama. They feel that he is addressing issues that are important to them: like jobs, health care, education. A lot of people are very excited."
Wilson Walker, an admissions counselor with a national technical college, said Obama is the only candidate who has been right about Iraq from the get go. Obama would restore American credibility abroad, he said.
"We are in another people's country and if it were the other way around we wouldn't like it," he said. "Americans wouldn't like that. The policy is wrong."
Walker said he fears the current administration will begin a new offensive in Iran.
"I have children and I feel there are some things worth dying for, but not oil. Oil should not be a reason that young people are putting their lives on the line to allow other individuals to get wealthy."
Carla Penn and Tony Hopson were at the Oregon Convention Center Friday.