SAN FRANCISCO – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, hoping to make inroads with women voters in California, urged an overwhelmingly female audience on Friday to risk supporting him instead of a candidate "who will deliver competently more of the same."
"There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington. I understand that," the Illinois senator told about 3,000 die-hard Democrats attending a fundraiser here. "But the problem is, the system in Washington is not working for us."
Obama's comments came at an event launching the California chapter of Women for Obama, a group that is working to help him crack the huge lead polls show New York Senator Hillary Clinton has built among Democratic voters in the state.
During his half hour-long stump speech, Obama never named his chief rival for the presidential nomination, but offered several shots at her repeated claim that she is the only candidate with the experience to effectively lead the nation.
Obama said he would not be a perfect president but will tell people where he stands and ask what they think.
"This campaign will be hard ... people who follow the well-worn grooves, people who will deliver competently more of the same. That's what they are counting on, that you will be too scared, that you will walk away, that this will seem too risky, this call to action," he said.
He cited a lack of reform on issues ranging from health care to energy that has endured through Republican and Democratic administrations.
"George W. has been a great advertisement for the Democratic Party, but it will take more than a change in parties in the White House to truly turn this country around," he said. "George Bush and Dick Cheney may have turned divisive politics into an art form, but they did not invent them."
Obama brought the audience to its feet several times, when he promised that ending the war in Iraq would be his first act as president if it is not done before then and again when he said that he looked forward to engaging the leaders of nations hostile to U.S. policies in dialogue.
"It does not make us look tough to not talk to other countries. It makes us look arrogant," he said.
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is co-chairing Women for Obama in California along with Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick, said Obama's stand in favor of abortion rights, universal health care and paid leave for new mothers made him a good choice for women voters.
"We are here because we have in Barack Obama someone who every day, when he looks at his daughters, when he thinks about his wife ... he thinks about the issues that matter to women," said Harris.