CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — President Barack Obama drew an overflow crowd to a rally Wednesday in this picturesque college town, just as he's done at least twice before, but some of the magic seemed to be gone.
As a candidate in 2008, he campaigned in downtown Charlottesville's cavernous, tented downtown amphitheater and packed it with thousands who screamed themselves hoarse on a crisp autumn evening. Two years later, he returned on an even colder October night in a vain effort to bail out one-term Democratic U.S. Rep Tom Perriello's re-election bid.
Now, with polls showing the quest for Virginia's 13 electoral votes virtually deadlocked between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, thousands again queued two or three abreast under a hot sun in a line that stretched for nearly a half mile down Charlottesville's tony brick-paved pedestrian mall.
But the mood among those who gathered Wednesday was different this time.
Obama supporter William Proffitt, a University of Virginia junior raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., was stuck in a line at least four blocks away from the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, intent on waiting it out. After all, the line behind him was growing at a rate of about 30 feet every minute. By 1 p.m., it snaked more than eight blocks.
"This is the first time I've ever seen a president in person," the political studies major said. "But I'm not as excited as I was four years ago. It no longer has the distinctiveness that it used to have. That was amazing, seeing the first African-American president elected, but that died off within a year."
LaSandra Jones, 48, of Charlottesville, was nearly seven blocks from the point where she would pass through a slow, painstaking security check. She, too, was undaunted, saying she would work as hard for the president's re-election as she did four years ago, when Obama became the first Democrat in 44 years to carry Virginia.