Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Obama speaks

Barack Obama took the stage as the first results from California began to trickle in. Again, I have to wonder about the timing; if you're planning to hit the evening news cycles, it's too late, but it's too early to deliver news of success from out west. Anyway, Obama gave an average speech by his standards, which is to say it was a better than average speech in relative terms.

I will note at this point something I heard a pundit say a couple of weeks ago: Notice, if you will, the signs for the other candidates. They all bear the name of the candidate. But Obama's signs are different. His signs say, "CHANGE we can believe in." Some versions say "Obama 08" beneath "CHANGE." Any thoughts? Is this psychological campaign warfare a conscious decision to affirmatively place the word "change" so prominently or a conscious decision to place Obama's name so inconspicuously?

This is, on par, one of the weaker speeches I've heard from Obama. He is falling into the same trap that Hillary did, lambasting Republicans in general, failing to distinguish congressional Republicans from Main Street Republicans. Theoretically, Obama has more room for error with independents and moderate Republicans, because he doesn't carry the same entrenched negatives that Hillary does. But with every primary and caucus contest, the general election draws that much closer, and he'll need the votes of those Republicans who sent those congressional GOPers to Washington.

Here's the Obama I'm used to hearing, the dreamer, the idealist, who speaks in broad terms that inspire and enthuse the audience. He's at his best when he attacks cynicism and reaches out to those who have yet to join the Obama-nation.

At latest count, 11 states have been called for Obama. FNC's Major Garrett explained the evolution of expectation among the Obama camp. Throughout the weekend and even into the morning, Obama spokespeople sought to diminish expectations, saying publicly that the campaign would consider it a good night if Obama was able to "keep it close" in delegates. Later in the afternoon, the campaign reached out to media representatives and felt comfortable enough about exit polls and turnout that they put a number -- 100 -- on what "keeping it close" meant. If Obama finished Super Tuesday within 100 delegates of Hillary, it would be a success. Finally, just a few hours ago --

SIDEBAR -- This may be my favorite Obama line yet: "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change we seek." Wow.

-- the campaign reached out a third time to media reps, saying that the campaign's internal calculations showed that it was possible -- and maybe even likely -- that Obama could draw even, and perhaps even surpass, Clinton in delegates for the night.

Obama wraps up his speech with the "Yes, we can" refrain that is perfect for his message that appeals to American idealism and optimism. The crowd is worked into a frenzy and is only too happy to oblige as Obama leaves the stage with the entreaty, "Let's go to work."

It's impressive. You have to admit it.