Despite difficulties, Obama event goes on
Barbara Engelbach of Portsmouth is one of about 15 Seacoast residents who gathered to watch Sen. Barack Obama on a live webcast Saturday in a Portsmouth home.
Barack Obama (D) Senator, Illinois
Born: 08/04/1961
Birthplace: Honolulu, HI
Home: Chicago, IL
Religion: United Church of Christ
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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Dennett Page had been planning a house party all week for friends - and even strangers - to gather and watch Sen. Barack Obama over a Webcast.

Around 4 p.m., about 15 Seacoast residents mingled in her Portsmouth living room, eating shrimp, sipping wine and champagne. They positioned themselves around a laptop computer resting on a table.

But the volume was not loud enough. Delays in the streaming created gaps in the presidential candidate's speech.

After a few moments, guests decided the plan to hear Obama's speech in Iowa was not possible. While some mingled back into the kitchen to eat and chat, many of the guests, despite the technical difficulty, made the best of it by sparking political conversation.

"I can't imagine this not being a catalyst," Page said, about an hour into her guests' conversation.

The campaign estimated about 5,000 house parties were held nationwide to watch the live Webcast of the Community Kickoff in Iowa, where Obama was holding a town hall-style meeting. In New Hampshire alone, the campaign said 30 homes hosted similar parties. Many guests responded to Obama's Web site to register for the party nearest them.

In Exeter, Cynthia Young was scheduled to hold one of the events at her home.

In Portsmouth, much of the conversation centered around stimulating young people to get out and vote and become engaged in the political process. Many said they were thrilled to see Obama reaching out to the younger generation and getting them involved.

"This gives us the opportunity to have political conversations with our children," said Pauline Elkin of Portsmouth. "This is the first time my adult children are excited about the political process. ... They want to know what I found out today."

A few guests joked that she would have to direct them to the Illinois senator's Web site.

Page said Saturday's intent was to spread the word to others and "convert" them to the Obama campaign. She calls herself an average middle-aged baby boomer who has never been involved in a presidential campaign before but when she heard Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention a few years ago, she was "blown away at his intelligence, sincerity, and his perspective of looking to the future and putting the cynicism at bay."

In between concerns over the direction the country is headed today, many guests compared Obama to former President John F. Kennedy, who could offer change to a country that desperately needs it.

"Kennedy was the first Catholic president to be elected and in a way he broke the mold," said Bob Pollard, a registered Republican who said he fully supports Obama and plans to change his affiliation to vote for the senator. "When (JFK) talked, it's just like Barack, he said. Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' It's the concept of what we can do for our government."

"I finally feel as though I'm voting for someone who will represent me," Jodi Howe said in response to Pollard.

Tim Fraser, Obama's regional director who attended the party, told guests that Obama will be holding a town hall-style meeting on April 3 in Rochester. Fraser assured the crowd that Saturday was not the last opportunity to learn more or even meet the senator, who he said is planning many more trips to the Granite State.