JERSEY CITY — Senator Barack Obama, showing strain in the wake of his surprise defeat in New Hampshire, hewed closely to his standard script of hope and change before a largely enthusiastic audience here on Wednesday, keeping his aim squarely on the administration of President Bush.
Taking only oblique swipes at Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Obama focused on his reasons for seeking the presidency, pledging to take on issues like global warming, education, jobs and foreign trade.
In a 40-minute speech that invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and the colonial settlers, Mr. Obama said he was running because of the “fierce urgency of now” at a defining moment in the country’s history.
“There’s something in the wind all across America,” he said, amid shouts of “Yes we can” and “Fired up” from the crowd of more than 2,000 people at a gymnasium at St. Peter’s College. “You first saw it in Iowa last Thursday, and you saw it yesterday in New Hampshire, even though we just came up a little bit short.”
Mr. Obama made only a few mentions of New Hampshire during the 40-minute speech, as he looked to regain momentum on the way to Feb. 5, when New Jersey, where Mrs. Clinton has consistently been ahead in polls, and more than 20 other states, including New York and California, will hold caucuses or primaries.
Saying that the results in New Hampshire, where he came in second to Mrs. Clinton, reminded “us that change isn’t easy,” he added that “change is always met by resistance.”
Although the crowd was clearly excited to see Mr. Obama — many had waited hours, and more than 1,000 who could not get in waited outside — Mr. Obama’s energy level appeared to ebb at times, and he took the stage with an acknowledgment of the toll that the campaign was taking.
“My voice is a little hoarse, my eyes are a little bleary, my back is a little sore,” he said. “But my spirit is strong.”
Several people at the rally, some of whom said they supported Mr. Obama and some of whom said they were undecided, said they found him appealing because of his personality and approach, emphasizing what they considered to be his honesty and ability to bring people together.
“There’s not much to get excited about in government right now, and this seems like something that can excite people, maybe give a little renewed faith,” said one of the undecided voters, Liz Long, 24, who lives here and owns a business that sells reusable shopping bags.
Ms. Long said that she likes Mrs. Clinton for her experience and attention to policy, but she would make her decision based on her personal sense of the candidates.
“If we’ve survived the past eight years based on policy, we can survive a little more poor policy,” she said.
Many of Mr. Obama’s supporters said they were not concerned by his loss to Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire.
“Going back a couple weeks, we would have been thrilled with that kind of result — the hysteria, the mania got way out of control, and the expectation that he was going to blow it out was ridiculous,” said Margaret Griffin, 51, a retired bookseller who lives in Princeton, N.J. She said she was planning to vote for Mr. Obama because he was “extremely smart and is going to surround himself with great people.”
She discounted criticism from the Clinton campaign that Mr. Obama does not have enough experience to be president.
“The experience factor is a nonissue,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, he has as much valid experience as Hillary.”
Later, Mr. Obama was in Manhattan for a fund-raiser at the Grand Hyatt hotel. Many of his supporters who were headed into the event said they were also unfazed by his second-place finish in New Hampshire, and were unruffled by the fact that the event was taking place in Manhattan, a stronghold for Mrs. Clinton.
Among the guests was the supermodel Iman, who seemed particularly upbeat. “That’s just a glitch,” she said of Mr. Obama’s finish in New Hampshire. “That’s nothing. We’re in it for the long haul.”
The actor Richard Gere and Curtis Martin, a former running back for the New York Jets, were also among the fund-raiser’s guests.
Helen Diane Foster, a city councilwoman from the Bronx who is supporting Mr. Obama, said she had no qualms about choosing the Illinois senator over Mrs. Clinton.
“Our responsibility is to the community, not to county organizations, not to Democratic leaders, and especially not to incumbent senators,” she said.
“To me, this is the most important election in my lifetime and I don’t want to have to say I sat on the sidelines. I want to be able to say I actively was a part of making history, and I think that’s what we are going to have.”