MANCHESTER, N.H. – It has become clear, by now, that Senator Barack Obama is hoping to brand himself as the not-from-Washington candidate in the Democratic presidential race. To make his point, he referred to Washington 22 times in a Labor Day speech here today. Howie P.S.:
“There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, speaking beneath a cloudless sky at a downtown park. “But the problem is that the system in Washington isn’t working for us and hasn’t for a long time.”
Mr. Obama, of course, was referring to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who one day earlier sought to impress upon voters in New Hampshire that she is the candidate who can most effectively navigate the political channels of Washington to bring about change.
In a speech before a crowd of several hundred people at Veterans Memorial Park, Mr. Obama introduced several new lines, previewing the argument he intends to make in the closing four months of the presidential primary race.
“I might not have the experience Washington likes, but I believe I have the experience America needs right now,” Mr. Obama said. “Hope and change – hope and change — are not just the rhetoric of a campaign for me. Hope and change have been the causes of my life. Hope and change are the story of our country.”
If a set of bookends could be placed on the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign, they surely would be stamped CHANGE and EXPERIENCE, with the leading candidates hoping to reassure voters that they have the right combination of both. Today, Mr. Obama added a dash of vinegar to his line about pundits who believe he lacks experience.
“To this bunch, only the years you spend in Washington count. Only time in Washington translates into wisdom,” Mr. Obama said. “I think they are wrong about that. I think they’re wrong about that. Recent history suggests otherwise.
“There were a couple of guys named Cheney and Rumsfeld who had two of the longest resumes in Washington and they led us into the worst foreign policy fiasco in recent history,” he added, speaking over the applauding crowd. “So it’s pretty clear to me and it’s pretty clear to the American people that time served doesn’t guarantee judgment. A resume says nothing about character.”
For Mr. Obama, his aides believe, the moment is now to start hammering away at a perception that Mrs. Clinton is the perceived front-runner for the Democratic nomination. At the same time, the argument also works with most other candidates in the race, all of whom have served longer in Washington than Mr. Obama.
To present the new themes, Mr. Obama used a Tele-prompter, which was positioned against the bright sunshine. (Mrs. Clinton, dusting off a new campaign speech of her own on Sunday in Portsmouth, did not).
Before heading off to his next campaign stop – a Labor Day parade with his wife and two daughters in the town of Milford – Mr. Obama also left voters with another fresh thought: humility.
“I’m reminded every single day that I am not a perfect man. I will not be a perfect president,” he said. “But I can promise you this: I will always tell you what I think and where I stand. I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.”
"To tele-prompt or not to tele-prompt," that is the question, according to this reporter.
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