Saturday, January 5, 2008

Obama Momentum After Iowa

It's truly something to see a black man convincingly win the caucuses in 2% white Iowa. Question is - can Barack Obama's momentum carry through into New Hampshire and the early primaries?

Indications are that it can - it turns out that Obama is an extraordinary candidate.

As I've suggested previously, the man offers what no other candidate in this field (or any other candidate in any other field in a couple generations) does - hope for a way past the bitter partisanship and cynicism of modern politics. Oh sure - there will always be sniping and partisan gamesmanship, but Obama seems determined (and maybe, just maybe, he is able) to rise above the fray as a uniter instead of divider.

Listen to some of the comments in today’s New York Times. First, this from Bob Herbert:

“The historians can put aside their reference material. This is new. America has never seen anything like the Barack Obama phenomenon…. Mr. Obama’s message of hope, healing and change, discounted as fanciful and na├»ve by skeptics, drew Iowans into the frigid night air by the tens of thousands on Thursday to stand with a man who is not just running for president, but trying to build a new type of political movement….

“Shake hands with tomorrow. It’s here.

“Senator Obama’s victory speech was a concise oratorical gem. No candidate in either party can move an audience like he can. He characterized his stunning victory as an affirmation of ‘the most American of ideas – that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it….

“The Clintons, [by contrast,] especially, have seemed baffled by the winds of change. They mounted a peculiar argument against Senator Obama, acknowledging that voters wanted change but insisting that you can’t achieve change by doing things differently….

“However this election turns out, Mr. Obama can be credited with a great achievement…. More than anyone else, he has re-energized that process and put some of the fun back into politics. And he’s done it by appealing openly and consistently to the best, rather than the worst, in us.”

And this from Gail Collins:

“Nearly 40 years later [after Hillary Rodham (Clinton’s) now-famous Wellesley commencement address in which she denounced politicians as ‘always looking for some way to cut a grubby deal instead of setting their sights on the impossible dream’ and claiming that she and her generation were ‘searching for a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living’], here she is, … campaigning in New Hampshire … warning voters that the guy who is promising to turn the whole process into something that people could actually feel good about is peddling ‘false hopes.’

“Meanwhile Barack Obama gives his folks the ecstatic experience. ‘They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose,’ he told them Thursday night, creating a patriotic lump in every throat in the room.

“How could you be 21 and not be for Barack Obama?

“How could you be 53 and not wonder how this relative stranger will hold up when the disasters arrive, when things get truly nasty and the crowd starts seeing him as mortal?

“But if she were around right now, Hillary Rodham the commencement speaker would probably be an Obama girl.”