In what Sen. Barack Obama is calling the best-attended rally of the political season for any candidate, more than 29,000 attendees jammed Williams-Brice Stadium Sunday.
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey rallied the crowd of supporters - a primarily female and African-American audience - to get behind her friend, Obama, a new type of lead who possesses “a tongue dipped in the untarnished truth,” Winfrey said.
Winfrey, who has never before endorsed a presidential candidate, said she’s “stepping out of her pew” because she’s been disappointed with politicians in the past and has been inspired by Obama’s message of change.
“Dr. King dreamed the dream, but we don’t have to dream the dream anymore,” Oprah told the crowd. “We get to vote that dream into office.”
South Carolina is an early voting state where Democrats will go to the polls Jan. 26. Current polling shows Obama trailing front runner Clinton by a small margin.
"South Carolina — January 26th is your moment," Winfrey said. "It's your time to seize the opportunity to support a man who, as the Bible says, loves mercy and does justly."
Sunday's event had the feel of a rock concert — with bands playing for early arrivals and campaign supporters yelling "fire it up" to the crowd.
Winfrey, who campaigned for Obama on Saturday in Iowa, offered a touch of talk show-like advice during a 17-minute speech. "There are those who say it's not his time, that he should wait his turn. Think about where you'd be in your life if you'd waited when people told you to," she said.
Obama criticized Democrats during his address, though never referenced his rivals by name.
"I'm tired of Democrats thinking the only way to look tough on national security is to act like George Bush," he said. "We need a bold Democratic Party that stands for something, not just postures and poses."
He said voters will need to cast ballots in favor of a candidate — not against an incumbent who is leaving office.
"The name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot," he said, a remark that brought the crowd to its feet for several minutes.
"The name of my cousin Dick Cheney won't be on the ballot," Obama added, a reference to their more than 300-year-old distant family connection.
The event at Williams-Brice Stadium initially was planned for The Colonial Center, with a capacity of 18,000, but was moved to the stadium after the campaign gave out all of its free tickets two days after distribution began. Organizers said they did not expect to fill the massive arena, however.
Winfrey and Obama were to head to New Hampshire later Sunday.
- Staff writer Gina Smith and AP writer Seanna Adcox contributed to this report