Oakland, California: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama attracted a crowd of 10,000 or more to his first rally in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Having glided to the top tier of Democratic candidates on a message of hope, the Illinois senator told the crowd in downtown Oakland Saturday that his campaign "is a vehicle for your hopes; it is a vehicle for your dreams", But he also used the appearance to contrast himself with his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton. Without naming her, Obama made an issue of Clinton's much criticised 2002 vote to authorise the war in Iraq, for which she has refused to apologise.
"I am proud of the fact that I opposed this war from the start," Obama said to huge cheers in this most anti-war of cities. "That I stood up in 2002 and said this is a bad idea. This is going to cost of billions of dollars and thousands of lives."
Obama said it was time to leave Iraq and to tell the Iraqis, "We want to be your partners, but we can't continue this occupation."
Obama is also challenging Clinton for support in the black community and his appearance in Oakland, a centre of black life in Northern California, was part of that strategy.
Oakland resident Chris Nishioka, 61, a black woman who is married to a Japanese man and the mother of two biracial children, said Obama's rise as a credible candidate for president gave her whole family cause for hope.
Obama is the son of a white American woman and a black man from Kenya and was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia. "What I like about him, is he has a global background and a global view," said Nishioka, a retired attorney.