JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - In his first campaign rally since his second-place showing in New Hampshire, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) spoke Wednesday afternoon to an boisterous overflow crowd at a college gymnasium, and said his loss Tuesday was a sober reminder that his message of change will be met by fierce resistance.
"One of the useful things...about yesterday was it reminds us that change isn't easy," Obama told the crowd. "Change is hard. Change is always met by resistance from the status quo." Someone in the crowd shouted back "Hillary is the status quo!"
In a veiled reference to Clinton, without mentioning her name, Obama also said that while he lost New Hampshire, even his rivals had now picked up on his theme of changing America. "We started this campaign talking about change," he said. "We talked about it while we were down, and we talked about it while we were up. Now almost everybody is talking about change."
The question, he added, was "Who will actually deliver change?"
New Jersey does not hold its presidential primary until Feb. 5, "Super Tuesday," but the crowd, at Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, was one of the largest Obama has addressed in the campaign. Organizers said some 3,000 people - not including the hundreds of journalists - were packed inside, and Obama said an additional 2,000 people were not allowed in because of concerns that the gym was too crowded. Obama apologized for an entry almost an hour after the scheduled starting time by explaining he had to greet those outside. "All across America, we're seeing crowds like this today," he said. "We couldn't let in 2,000 folks. That's why I'm a little late."
"There's something going on out there, people," Obama said. "There's something in the wind. There's something stirring all across America." He said he saw it in Iowa, which he won convincingly, and also in New Hampshire, where, "My turnout was a little short."
Showing just a bit of the strain of the nearly non-stop campaigning, Obama apologized for his hoarse voice. "My voice is a little hoarse. My eyes are a little bleary. My back is a little sore. But my spirit is strong," he told the crowd.
Obama had kind words for his most prominent New Jersey supporter, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, whom he called "The up and coming rising superstar."
New Jersey politicians are largely split among Clinton, Obama and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards.
Obama headed to New York after the rally for a sold-out fundraising dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in midtown, coming directly into Hillary Clinton's home turf.
Most of New York's Democratic Party establishment, including black leaders, have lined up behind Clinton as a favorite son, but Obama has about 15 or so prominent supporters who expect Obama to wage a targeted guerilla campaign in key, heavily black congressional districts in an effort to pick up a few delegates.
Obama's New York supporters today attempted to paint the New Hampshire result as short of a loss. "He has prevailed and is in a very competitive position," said State Sen. Bill Perkins, the first local black official to endorse Obama. "His two percent difference in the New Hampshire primary is a remarkable testament to his ability to turn out and create some excitement."
Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, who is planning to travel to South Carolina with his wife to campaign for Obama, said "It's early in a long race. ...Those Super Tuesday states are a greater cross-section of America."