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Caroline Kennedy recalls JFK in a push for Obama

Caroline Kennedy greets 5-year-old twins Nyssa and Leila Ossi of Tampa after speaking at the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. She is visiting retiree hotbeds this week, including the Villages north of Orlando.

MARTHA RIAL | Times

Caroline Kennedy greets 5-year-old twins Nyssa and Leila Ossi of Tampa after speaking at the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. She is visiting retiree hotbeds this week, including the Villages north of Orlando.

SUN CITY CENTER — Some of them cast their first presidential vote for her father.

On Wednesday, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, made a stop in this retirement community as part of a statewide Early Vote for Change campaign for Barack Obama.

Many were a step ahead of her.

"How many people have voted already?" Kennedy asked the crowd of 200 mostly retirees, along with younger adults and children who had gathered in a room at the Chamber of Commerce. Nearly everyone raised their hands.

Kennedy pressed on, urging votes for the Democratic nominee. While much is made of Obama's popularity with young voters, Kennedy's tour this week was taking her through retiree hotbeds, including the Villages in Central Florida.

Kennedy, who rarely has engaged in political campaigns, said people have always told her that her father inspired them toward public service.

"That's the same spirit we're seeing today," she said. "We haven't really had a leader who could ignite that spark. We do now in Barack Obama."

She ended with another call to get people to the polls.

"I know everyone here has voted but each of you must have five friends," she said.

Lynn Millikin, 54, was someone who hadn't voted yet. A registered Republican, she already planned to cast a vote for Obama. "I like his policies on health care and taxes and energy, and I like what I've seen in his character," she said.

Sitting next to her was Anne Walker, 66, a registered nurse who cast an early ballot for Obama and has volunteered in his campaign for six weeks.

She originally intended to vote for Republican nominee John McCain until he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Walker said Obama is one of the most impressive people she has seen in politics in years.

Hearing Kennedy speak confirmed her opinion. "She makes you think you made the right decision," she said.

There were still plenty of McCain supporters in the retirement center. Less than a mile away, Eladio Del Castillo, 73, an author of children's books, has a McCain sign in his yard. JFK was the first president he voted for, but he supports McCain because he thinks he's the more experienced candidate. And while he admires Caroline Kennedy, there is another woman who has stolen his heart.

"I love Sarah Palin," he said. "I'm crazy about her."

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

Caroline Kennedy recalls JFK in a push for Obama 10/29/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 3:54pm]

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