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Obama Throws Away the Script

By Shailagh Murray
NELSONVILLE, Ohio -- Speeches? What speeches?

In the final days before March 4, Sen. Barack Obama isn't delivering many stirring addresses, those hope-filled stemwinders that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has dismissed as long on rhetoric and short on facts. Now Obama is in the solutions business too, holding a series of town hall meetings similar to the free-wheeling forums that packed his schedule early on in Iowa.

Here on the campus of Hocking College, Obama talked up his plan to develop "green" energy technologies to create jobs, and fielded questions about foreign oil, hydrogen and biofuels. He even cracked a joke about the coal industry:
"It's never fully recovered, even though coal has -- I was going to say picking up steam -- but that's mixing metaphors." The candidate and the audience shared a chuckle.

But he also spoke about the mortgage crisis, taking a swipe at real-estate speculators. "We don't want to bail those folks out, because we've got limited resources." And he outlined his views on abortion and gay marriage and spoke of both in the context of his Christian faith.

"My faith is important to me. It's not something I try to push on other people," Obama said. He supports abortion rights, he said, but he said the pro-choice community had been wrong in the past to undervalue the moral dimension.

"It's never an easy decision," Obama said. "I think it's always tragic and we should prevent [abortions] as much as possible."

Obama restated his opposition to gay marriage, but asserted that he supported civil unions because "people who are gay and lesbian should be treated with diginity and respect and the state should not discriminate against them." He added, "If people find that controversial, than I would just refer them to the "Sermon on the Mount."

The senator even acnowledged the speech conundrum. "When I first got into the race, we had a couple of big rallies...and I made a couple of big speeches," said Obama. "Then we started having a lot of town hall meetings like this. And it was interesting that some of the reporters started criticizing that I sounded like a policy wonk, I was like a professor. I'd be talking all these details, explaining how we're going to apply tax credits to rural areas" and the response was, "well this is really boring. What ever happened to the really exciting guy we saw at the Boston Convention?"

"Then we starting getting a lot of momentum, suddenly we're having big crowds and I was making big speeches, and they said, this guy, he just makes speeches all the time."

By Post Editor  |  March 2, 2008; 1:53 PM ET
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