Note: This rally has been canceled. See here for more details.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will be visiting the Madison area next Thursday, October 23 for a major rally, confirmed the candidate's Wisconsin press office. No formal announcement has been made yet by the campaign, but a Madison city committee discussed logistics and street closure plans with the campaign's advance staff late Friday.
"Just to forewarn you, it's going to be nothing like anything you've ever seen before," said an Obama campaign official at the event, predicting crowds that might even surpass the 80,000 that crowded West Washington Avenue for a John Kerry campaign appearance in 2004.
The Madison Street Use Staff Team met Friday afternoon to discuss the timing and location of the rally. Rain or shine, the rally will be held on the southeast side of the Square, with a tentative stage location on the Capitol grounds facing Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Obama is scheduled to speak at noon, and entry will be open several hours in advance. The event is free and open to all.
Beginning on Wednesday afternoon, the first block of both East and West Main Street and the 100 block of MLK, Jr. Blvd. will be closed. This location was selected for security purposes, with the West Washington Avenue corridor hosting the John Kerry rally in 2004 not deemed secure enough by the Secret Service.
Obama has visited Madison twice already over the course of his campaign, first at Monona Terrace in October 2007 and then before an overflowing crowd at the Kohl Center in February one week before his landslide win in the Wisconsin primary.
This rally will continue a decades-long trend of major visits by Democratic candidates to Madison in the final weeks before the election. Over the last two cycles, Al Gore held a 20,000-plus strong rally with Melissa Etheridge on the Capitol Square in 2000, and John Kerry held the West Washington Avenue rally of unprecedented size along with Bruce Springsteen in 2004. Though Obama has been consistently polling five to 17 points higher than Republican candidate John McCain in Wisconsin over the last month, this rally confirms its ongoing status as a swing state in the 2008 election.
"I think Obama will continue to share with Wisconsin voters his vision for bringing about the change this country so desperately needs," noted Wisconsin campaign spokesperson Phil Walzak, "bringing real and meaningful tax relief to middle-class families, and putting American back in the right direction."
Kristian Knutsen and Jason Joyce contributed to this article.