UNH students get hooked on Barack Obama
Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the Lundholm Gym at UNH. (Photo by Don Clark)

DURHAM -- Sarah Callender, a University of New Hampshire freshman, saw Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York in her hometown of Concord on Saturday. Monday night, at the UNH Field House, Callender saw Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, one of Clinton's fellow contenders for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

For Callender, a 19-year-old political science major, there was a clear contrast between the two candidates. "Hillary was somewhat stale, monotone in her answers," Callender said. "Obama was a different than what I had seen on television. He was energetic and gave detailed answers. I like the way he thought." Callender was particularly impressed with Obama's explanation of his wide-ranging energy policy with included mandatory CO2 emission regulations, increased vehicle mileage per gallon requirements and a government-focused effort on alternative fuel development.

Obama's appearance at UNH came two days after officially launching his bid for the Democratic nomination. The first-term senator drew a large crowd students, faculty and Seacoast residents and families. Obama drew some of the loudest and most sustained cheers of the evening when he spoke about his early opposition to the Iraq war, his plan to withdraw combat troops by next March and how the war has distracted from so many other issues in the country, such as the rebuilding of New Orleans.

The Iraq war issue was a top issues that UNH graduate student Beth Sweeney of Kittery, Maine, said she had come to the event for. "I don't know much. I came here to learn" about Obama's stance on education and the war.

"I've not been particularly (politically) active," said Sweeney, 27, who plans to be more engaged this year and would like to find out more about Clinton. The education student said she was hoping candidates such as Obama would make reforms to the No Child Left Behind Act.

Callender said she campaigned for Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, in the 2004 election and plans to get involved for the 2008 campaign, when she will be able to cast a presidential vote for the first time. "I bought it," she said of the appearance.

She believes Obama has the ability to attract a new generation of voters because of his youth and his message. Though the New Hampshire primary is around 11 months away, Callender said "I am a little excited." After the 90-minute event concluded with a cheering standing ovation for Obama, a UNH student carrying an Obama 08 poster said, "He's pretty cool."