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Originally published Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 4:27 PM

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Happy Dems, a few GOPers pack Obama-Murray rally

With Washington's vote-by-mail election already under way, President Barack Obama urged a raucous crowd Thursday to quickly cast their votes for Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE —

With Washington's vote-by-mail election already under way, President Barack Obama urged a raucous crowd Thursday to quickly cast their votes for Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

"You need to go, right after this rally, fill out that ballot, and mail it in," Obama told a packed crowd at the University of Washington's basketball arena. "Today. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but today."

Obama's second campaign trip to Washington state this year was part of a flood of high-profile Democrats trying to whip up voters for Murray this month. The three-term incumbent is in a competitive race with Republican Dino Rossi, a two-time runner-up for governor.

"I am proud to be at your back, and I know you're proud to be at mine," Murray told the crowd. "We are going to continue to move forward with leadership for this state."

The rally worked as intended for at least one voter in the crowd of about 10,000. Student Alison Gile, 20, voted for Obama in 2008 but has been undecided in this year's Senate race. As the crowd filtered out, Gile said she was now leaning toward Murray.

"This really helped bring that excitement back," Gile said. "I came out here to see President Obama. If her intent was to get undecided voters out here, then it worked."

Others didn't need encouragement.

Nathan Calhoun, 26, had already voted for Murray - one of the roughly 240,000 who state officials estimate have already cast ballots. Calhoun, a union member who works for UW's student health system, said he especially likes Murray's support of veterans.

"That's a big thing for me," said Calhoun, a Navy veteran. "The health care and disability benefits, that's major. Because we deserve everything we get."

There were a some dissenting voices, including a handful of men who sat together in the stands wearing distinctive blue-and-yellow Rossi campaign T-shirts. Outside the arena, Mike Freimuth joined two friends in a lighthearted protest of Obama's appearance.

Freimuth, 28, held a sign that read "I'm not crazy, just don't like Obama."

"We want smaller government. We don't want government health care, we don't want cap-and-trade, we don't want the kind of financial reform he's doing," Freimuth said. "They're getting more in bed with special interests. It's all the things he said he wasn't going to do."

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Other protesters outside the event lobbied for gay rights, an end to war and less surveillance of peace activists.

Republicans said Obama's visit is a sure sign of Rossi's strength.

"Panic is the word that comes to mind. If they didn't think that Patty Murray was in deep, desperate trouble, we wouldn't be seeing this parade of celebrities," state Republican Party chairman Luke Esser said. "They're very concerned and they ought to be concerned. Dino Rossi is closing strong."

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AP Writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report from Olympia.

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Online:

http://www.pattymurray.com

http://www.dinorossi.com

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