Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Barack Obama supporters celebrate as they gather on Super Tuesday primary election night at the Sky Box Bar Sports Grille at The Gateway in Salt Lake City.

About 35 Sen. Barack Obama supporters at the Sky Box Sports Grille at The Gateway cheered when NBC called the Utah Democratic race for Barack Obama soon after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

As the Obama party gathered steam and more backers arrived in front of the three vast TV screens, the whooping was even louder when the network called Kansas for their candidate, by a wide margin.

By 9:30 p.m., more than 100 were there, filling tables and peering at three enormous TV screens, usually reserved for sports spectaculars. On Tuesday night, however, they showed broadcasts from CNBC, CNN and FOX networks.

Megan Riffe, Salt Lake City, shouted, "Go, Obama!"

Riffe indicated she's delighted by the number of the Democratic turnout.

"We're just really excited about how many people turned out to vote for Hillary and Obama," she said.

A few supporters gathered for Sen. Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday party at Port O' Call in Salt Lake. News that Obama had taken the majority of Democratic votes in Utah was countered by word that Clinton took Massachusetts, despite Obama endorsements from Sen. Edward Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy clan.

At the event at the club, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson described herself as an enthusiastic Clinton supporter.

"I feel so strongly that she is the right person to lead this country," Wilson said.

Wilson added that regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination, she felt that both Obama and Clinton — and what they stand for— represent a change to "where we need to be, politically, at this time."

By the end of the night it's possible Clinton will take more delegates, said Obama supporter Sean Sasso.

"But I think it's going to be close" nationally. But he was certain of Obama's win in Utah because of reaction he's heard "with the phone calls I've made today."

Jeremiah Roth, a 31-year-old Salt Lake City man, said he supports Obama because he's an exciting candidate. Clinton, he said, "would be more of the same."

The election is important, said Heather Culligan, Salt Lake City, "because our country's in a very difficult spot, and the direction we go from here is pretty critical. We're in one war, ready to begin at least one."

America is in an important turning point, she said. "We need somebody who can take us in a new direction."

The excitement level bounced higher as the minutes counted down toward the close of the California polls.

"It's a very good night," said Misty Fowler, Salt Lake City. "We have been at this for a year." The Utah Obama effort started with 40 people meeting at the Gallivan Center, she said.

That was six days after Obama announced he was running for president.

"It's just grown and grown," Fowler said. "It's thrilling to know that it can and will get better, and this is how it happens." She does not feel that Super Tuesday would decide the nomination. That may be "up in the air until August."

Theodore Cowan, Salt Lake City, 24, has traveled to Nevada to help the Obama campaign there. "The results for Utah are exactly what we wanted," he said happily. The results nationally "there are no upsets. Everything's OK."

Hearty, loud applause broke out for each state called for Obama.

Most of the excited supporters in the Sky Box bar and grille were young, including two Obama spokespeople, Andrew Savage and Erin Fitzgerald. They were reluctant to comment before results were certain in other important regions.

But among the youthful faces were a married couple from the Salt Lake avenues area who had seen a few other elections, Bill Brothers, 54, and Luci Kelley, 52.

Brothers said he was "just excited to have a chance to vote for somebody who really stands for a lot of things I believe in."

Asked how Obama was doing, after 9 p.m., Kelley said, "I think he's holding his own really well — so far. I'm looking forward to getting more (states) in, especially California."

Why does she like Obama? "He really inspires me, the fact that he doesn't take corporate money, so the people he's beholding to is us, the little donors."

"Yay, Romney!" hooted one man, lifting his fist in the air. Through the night, Romney wins were cheered, whether because the Utah crowd liked him or, more likely, they thought the Democrats would have a better chance of beating him in November.

A huge roar erupted from the tables of Obama supporters when California statistics were broadcast, apparently exit polling, showing that Obama was ahead among white and black voters. They voiced disappointment a moment later when Clinton was shown ahead two-to-one among Latinos, who are a huge demographic in that state.

"Obama! Obama! Obama!" the chant went up as he began to speak on the TVs.

When he declared, "Our time has come," his Utah supporters screamed and waved arms in the air.

However, the mood became a bit more somber when one of the networks announced that Clinton was the projected winner in California.

Still, said Savage, "I think the results here in Utah show that Barack Obama's campaign for change is resonating across the state, that he is bringing people together, young and old, men and women, regardless of race and religion, to tackle the tough challenges that we face as a country.

"People want something new, and Barack Obama's offering that."


Contributing: Arthur Raymond


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