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Listening to the Next President?

By Joel Achenbach
CONCORD, N.H., 2:30 p.m.--I wonder how many hard-bitten journalists standing in back, encrusted with decades of skepticism, nonetheless began to suspect that they were listening to the next president of the United States.

Barack Obama wasn't even particularly sharp by his standards. Probably tired to the bone after Iowa. A couple of times he almost lost his train of thought. But he could have taken a nap on stage and still would have rocked this house. He just needed to be vertical. His Iowa bounce has given his campaign the kind of energy you just never see at a Hillary event. Hillary's morning appearance in Nashua was, by comparison, funereal.

And it's not just that she had about one-tenth as large a crowd. By touching on her ability to withstand the Republican attack machine she reminds people of the vicious politics of the last 15 years. Obama's message basically says, Don't be afraid. Don't give in the politics of fear. He seemed to make almost a direct response to what Clinton said this morning about how she's been vetted: People in Iowa, he said, realized that "the real gamble was having the same old folks doing the same old thing."

He hit the usual notes on ending partisanship, bringing America together, reaching out to independents and even Republicans, having "the courage to believe." Not a lot of specifics, but then a wonky speech would have flattened the emotional high of the crowd. It was time for a rally, not a colloquy.

For so long he has talked about hope (people call him "a hopemonger," he joked), but now he's got results to back him up. He's got the numbers.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 4, 2008; 3:51 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Joel's New Hampshire Diary , The Democrats  
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