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Joel's New Hampshire Diary

Swept Up in the Obama Moment


Obama rallies the faithful. (AP).

By Joel Achenbach
The best sign of the campaign trail, probably not official, but stuck prominently in the snow outside of Exeter High School this morning:

"Experience in a world that no longer exists vs. change you can believe in."

Has the world really changed over the past four days? Maybe it's a passing spasm, a case of over-thinking the situation and overestimating the Iowa results and the trends in the polls. But if Obama's not leading a political movement, he's doing a pretty good impression of someone who is.

An Obama event is not a friendly place for cynics, skeptics, or the chronically unimpressed. This is revival-tent stuff. The senator from Illinois used the metaphor of a religious conversion:

"I am going to try to be so persuasive, so that those of you who are still wavering...will suddenly come to the conclusion -- a light beam will shine through -- will light you up -- and you will experience an epiphany -- I have to vote for Barack!"

And then the pragmatist spoke: "When you do, we would love you to fill out one of these supporter cards to memorialize this moment."

He asked for a show of hands of those who are still undecided. A surprising number rose into the air -- a couple of hundred people in a crowd well over a thousand.

"We are coming after you," he said. "You have fair warning."

Before his speech, one undecided local voter, Kim Orifici, who had briefly leaned toward Clinton, said she's now likely to vote for Obama. She didn't like it when Clinton last night went on the attack against Obama on health care. It seemed too much like a campaign tactic: "It made her look a little bit weaker," she said.

To which Joni Anthony, standing next to her, said, "She lost her cool, and he has a calm confidence."

Obama made the point in last night's debate -- in response to a dig from Sen. Clinton that change required more than fancy talk -- that words actually do matter. When you hear him speak and rouse a crowd, you realize that indeed words can indeed be a force for change, and inspiration for change. That's what Dr. King showed, and President Kennedy, and now, it seems, Obama.

He has a favorite phrase:

"If you believe...

"If you believe...

"If you believe..."

Tobey Harman, 59, an art teacher from Stratham who until today had been leaning toward Clinton, began weeping during Obama's speech. She was overcome when he mentioned John F. Kennedy and his goal of putting a man on the moon -- it brought back memories of how she felt in another era. After the speech she managed to kiss Obama's hand.

"He really overwhelmed me," she said. "The whole thing about hope. It's hard to believe that anything will really change. But he says if you give up hope, forget it.

"You gotta have hope."

Posted at 4:07 PM ET on Jan 6, 2008  | Category:  Joel's New Hampshire Diary
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Posted by: Braden pvazx | April 9, 2008 1:50 PM

He has a wicked dry humor! They're all exhausted: Clinton is crying, and Obama is joking about divine lights instead of sticking to the script.

Posted by: Vaughan1 | January 7, 2008 4:10 PM

Obama has also opened up a 13-point lead in the new USA Today/Gallop Poll:

Obama 41%, Clinton 28%, Edwards 19%

This is the 4th new poll in 3 days to show Obama opening up a double-digit lead.

USA Today/Gallop Poll: Obama +13
CNN/WMUR: Obama +10
ARG: Obama + 12
Rasmussen: Obama +12

OMG. Obama's going to wup Hillary's butt in NH!

USA Today/Gallop Poll:
http://blogs.usatoday.com/onpolitics/2008/01/obama-up-by-13.html

All other Polls:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/nh/new_hampshire_democratic_primary-194.html

Posted by: writeava | January 6, 2008 7:40 PM

This is a time in history when big changes are needed, some very quickly. You just can't make a big change without the voters supporting you. Clinton and Edwards want to lead us into battles and confrontational politics. It is the old way. Obama wants change that is less dangerous than waging political war and more successful. You can only do this by inspiring people's imaginations in a big way. It is a much more positive way to effect change, and in the end may be more lasting because people will see a new way of working out problems that goes beyond the partisan fistfight.
And by the way, an epiphany does not have to be religious at all. Epiphanies come to scientists, artists, philosophers, and even voters. We all want to be inspired in our lives. I don't think inspiration is the domain of only religion. There is no reason to cede it to the churches. It is a powerful way to change our lives for the better, so why is Achenbach so seemingly dismissive of it?

Posted by: goldie2 | January 6, 2008 5:48 PM

Many people are still confused about the massive support for O-BOMBA from the young. Hey, dude, it's simple - we want somebody that appreciates drugs as much as we do! He is the MOST LIKELY to legalize the weed, he is the MOST LIKELY to de-emphasize prosecution of drug use, he is the MOST LIKELY to allow "medical" use of marijuana, he is the MOST LIKELY to soften sentences for coke (his favorite refreshment) and he is the MOST LIKELY to abolish the DEA. He's our kind of toker! VOTE YES FOR DRUGS!

Posted by: ImpeachNOW | January 6, 2008 5:44 PM

...i think we are waiting to see who "walks on water" first, Obama or Huckabee, then the light thing is supposed to happen...

Posted by: sam51 | January 6, 2008 5:31 PM

There is definitely something going on that has quasi-religious traits. It is based on a general feeling of being fed-up with the status quo and the ruling elites. And, of course, an uncertainty about the future. And, if you consider the word "hope" as it's hallmark, it shows how insecure people have become, small wonder after a period of corporate greed unlimited and administrative incompetence unlimited. A development like this has it's dangers. Many dictatorial regimes have been welcomed by the people, because it instilled hope for a better future. On the other hand it is a sign for a healthy democracy, when leading elites (and Hillary Clinton falls into that category) are dismissed for having failed. And the US voters feel that Washington has failed them.

For my regular update on what European newspapers have to say, look here:

http://tpzoo.wordpress.com/2008/01/06/new-hampshire-or-bust-hillarys-woes-and-379-days-of-bush-left/

Posted by: old_europe | January 6, 2008 5:25 PM

I am definitely not Obama's target demographic so I will be the first to concede that I still have not fallen under the Obama spell, but isn't some of this starting to sound like a cross between Tinkerbelle, and a new religious cult? I started to feel this way when the Obama-Oprah show opened with Oprah solemnly telling the audience that Obama is the "one". After reading this report I am more convinced than ever that we are all supposed to elevate Obama to the Presidency, no campaign or election needed.

Posted by: rdklingus | January 6, 2008 4:56 PM

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