Obama to Headline Charlottesville Rally for Perriello

By: Jim Hanchett, Jessica Jaglois Email
By: Jim Hanchett, Jessica Jaglois Email

Oct. 26, 2010

President Barack Obama is headlining a Friday rally in Charlottesville for Rep.Tom Perriello. The Democrat from Ivy is in a close re-election fight with Republican challenger Robert Hurt.

President Obama will fly into Charlottesville Albemarle Airport aboard Air Force One, and then speak at a rally at the Pavilion on the Downtown Mall. Gates open at 5 p.m. but there's no indication yet what time the President will arrive. The event is free and open to the public, and no tickets are required.

Officials say all attendees will go through airport-like security and should bring as few personal items as possible. No bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids or signs will be allowed in the venue. However, cameras are permitted.

"The President and I disagree on some issues, but we agree that America cannot return to the failed Bush-Hurt policies that brought our great nation to the brink of economic ruin. The President knows I'm an independent fighter, that I work tirelessly for this district, and that I'm interested in what we can accomplish together, rather than what divides us," said Perriello in a statement released to the media.

Perriello is facing a re-election challenge from Hurt, a Chatham Republican, and from independent Jeff Clark. Recent polls have Hurt leading.

Obama's appearance in Charlottesville suggests Democrats think Perriello has a good shot at defeating Hurt and a presidential visit might be a difference-maker. It also suggests that Perriello has decided he's better off with Obama than without him. While the Republican party seems to be more fired up heading into Election Day, Charlottesville is highly Democratic and experts say the rally may help energize the liberal vote.

"You might rekindle some of the flames from 2008, where you had huge turnout among young people and minorities in particular. Charlottesville makes a lot of sense since it is a relatively liberal city. Usually about 3/4 of the vote in Charlottesville is democratic, so if Perriello can boost turnout in Charlottesville, then that could go a long way toward replicating his 2008 victory," said Isaac Wood, of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The White House and the Perriello campaign hope President Obama's visit will help the Democratic incumbent to win the close race. However, not everyone thinks the effort will be successful.

"From a campaigning standpoint, really Charlottesville? Send him someplace where the race is closer or he is behind, where having the president might sway some voters over," said Joe Thomas, a conservative Charlottesville radio host.

Robert Hurt for Congress campaign spokesperson, Amanda Henneberg, issued this statement:

“We gladly welcome President Obama to the 5th District as he campaigns on behalf of his favorite Congressman, Tom Perriello. His visit will further solidify the idea in the minds of voters that Congressman Perriello has been nothing more than a lap dog for the job killing Obama-Pelosi agenda, representing their interests, not the interests of Central and Southside Virginians.”

Various Charlottesville area agencies were already making plans Tuesday afternoon for the Friday rally. Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport CEO, Barbara Hutchinson, said she met with Secret Service agents Tuesday to make preliminary plans for Obama's arrival at CHO.

Ric Barrick, a Charlottesville City spokesman, says they want "to make sure [people] know how to avoid the crowd if that is their intent, or how to safely integrate into the crowd if they want to participate."

With Friday's newscasts and Saturday's papers sure to show a shot of Obama and Perriello shoulder to shoulder, the freshman from Ivy is clearly willing to put his political future in the hands of the President.

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