An estimated 18,000 people gathered in Virginia Beach to see presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
"This has got to be the biggest political rally in Virginia Beach history," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, warming up the massive crowd squeezed in to the city's new convention center. Scott asked the crowd, "Is this going to be the first year Virginia elects a Democrat for president since 1964?"
Well, Democrats in Virginia seem to be on a roll.
Sen. Jim Webb proved that Virginia is not hostile territory for Democrats with his narrow victory over incumbent Republican George Allen in 2006. And, former Democratic Governor Mark Warner's approval rating was at record levels before he left office in 2005, paving the way for his current bid for Senate, and helping Governor Tim Kaine maintain the Democrats' hold on the Commonwealth along the way.
Kaine even took his turn pumping up the crowd, leading the rally with a chorus of "Yes, we can."
For many in attendance, it was their first time at a political rally for a presidential candidate. Reflecting the signage around the convention center, many Obama supporters referenced "Change" as the reason for their endorsement.
"It's a change--a big change from what the government's used to," said Jonathon Miner, a 23 year old Virginia Beach native who convinced his mom to come along with him to the rally because he got an email invitation from the campaign after church. "Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton? That sounds like a dynasty to me, not democracy," added Miner, who recently returned from a 15-month tour in Iraq with the Army's 134th Brigade Combat Team, and recently passed his tests to become a police officer in Virginia.
Miner's mother, Sheila, had seen one other presidential campaign before during her childhood in New York City--President Kennedy. "We saw the dream. We saw Camelot. We can see it again."
Renee Graves, a 23-year-old resident of Williamsburg, said that she was looking forward to having a president that "represents the people and what they look like, and is not just representing the majority." Graves said, "I wouldn't mind if the president used to work for McD's, at least we would know where they came from."
Many of the young voters at the political rally did not feel that presidential candidates needed to have experience to be qualified for the job. Kristen Wilson, a 2005 graduate from Roanoke College, analogized the "presidential experience" question to joining the work force right after college. "It's tough to get that first job because all interviewers look for is 'experience', but you can't have experience until you've had the job," Graves said, explaining the Catch-22.
But, in the end, there can only be so much discussion about "change" and "experience" and it comes down to the votes. By the time Obama took the stage, the election results from the weekend had all poured in.
Obama spoke. "We have now won on the Atlantic coast, we've won in the Gulf Coast, we won on the Pacific Coast and we won in between those coasts."
The Potomac Primary awaits.