ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Sen. Barack Obama whipped up crowds of ebullient Democrats in Virginia yesterday, hoping the high wattage of his retail-level campaigning can translate into political momentum on Election Day.
After a revival-like appearance at the Virginia Democratic Party's annual dinner on Saturday and morning newspaper polls showing a commanding lead against Sen. Hillary Clinton in Virginia, his appearances started to take on the feel of a victory tour.
At T.C. Williams High School here in the Washington suburbs, thousands of supporters lined the sidewalks for two hours, then waited inside for two more, to catch a few minutes of Obama's electioneering.
"I've never been this excited about politics," said Cindy Michaels, a 33-year-old teacher from Northern Virginia, who said she skipped lunch for the chance to see Obama, even if it was from 100 yards away.
As about 3,000 supporters waited on the bleachers in the school's crowded gymnasium, Obama sat down in the cafeteria for a brief "roundtable" discussion with parents and teachers - with 150 journalists looking on. He used the exchange to discuss his plans for education reform, which he said would ensure a good education for every child in America.
"There is nothing more fundamental to the American dream than giving our children an education," he said.
Obama discussed his proposal for a $4,000 annual college tuition tax credit, designed to cover the bulk of a public university education and make college more accessible. And he proposed making community service or national service a condition of getting the money.
Aides also distributed copies of a three-page plan detailing proposed investments in early childhood education, plans to raise teacher salaries and planned changes to the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" education law. He did not discuss how to pay for the proposals, though he has said he would make more federal funds available by ending the war in Iraq.
As the Illinois senator spoke in the cafeteria, Rep. James P. Moran, a Northern Virginia Democrat who had not endorsed anyone in the presidential race until appearing at Obama's rally yesterday, surveyed the thundering crowd waiting in the school gym and said: "Boy, have they found a groundswell of support here." He told them: "You are part of a magical, historic moment."
The room erupted when Obama arrived, as people stomped on the metal bleachers and shouted the Obama slogan "Yes, we can."
Racial tension at T.C. Williams High School in the early 1970s was the inspiration for the film "Remember the Titans," and Obama latched onto the theme of unity and opportunity in addressing the crowd. A black man raised by a single mother, he said his family struggled to send him to school, and he only recently paid off his loans for college and law school.
"The fact that I am even here is a testament to the difference a good education can make," he said.
Obama criticized his Democratic opponent, saying that she was too much a part of the Washington establishment that voters should shun.
"I think it's very hard for Senator Clinton to break out of the politics of the past 15 years," Obama said.
After speaking and answering questions for more than an hour, Obama hurried off for another event in Virginia Beach, and he planned to cross the state once again for a rally in Roanoke before visiting Maryland today.