(HOST) Barach Obama visited New Hampshire recently, and commentator Bill Seamans was on hand to get a close look at the charismatic senator.
(SEAMANS) They said it was not a campaign trip – they said Barack Obama was invited to lead the Democrats’ celebration of their greatest victory in a century. But it was hard to believe that it was just a courtesy call and he was followed by a horde of media – 150 news persons including some from Australia and Japan, nineteen TVcameras and a half-dozen satellite trucks parked outside. I’m talking about his appearance in Mancheste,r where a sellout crowd of a thousand five hundred persons packed the big hall at the Radisson Center. They stopped selling tickets for safety reasons and many more were turned away at the door.
I was one of those who squeezed in hoping to get a feeling of what this Barack Obama stuff was all about. It was a standup crowd, believe me – there were no chairs – and Obama was delayed almost an hour so I was able to tune in on the conversations around me. I shuffled slowly from one end of the room to the other to get a good sample of comment by the standees whose anticipation seemed to overcome their discomfort.
It was a journalistic reminder that no written words, none spoken on radio or TV, even if enhanced by tv images – nothing can truly describe the feeling of a crowd unless you are standing among them, listening to their opinionated chatter. I heard words like new generation,” sincere, inspiring, seems honest, clean cut, no scandal baggage. One could sense a kind of electric feeling that they hoped Obama would live up to the superstar hype that had preceded him – maybe even hear him turn a phrase like JFK’s immortal Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask rather what you can do for your country.
But not quite – Obama said he saw himself as – and I quote – a symbol, or a stand-in for a spirit – a spirit that says we are looking for something different. We want something new. And Obama added, America is ready to turn the page –This is our time, a new generation is prepared to lead. Obama certainly was plugged in to that electricity coming from the crowd. He was preaching to the choir.
Will he run? Obama says he has not made up his mind – his aides say that he will answer that question sometime next month and that he will make that decision with his wife, Michele. Beyond the kind of popular support he received in Manchester, political experts say Obama would have to raise up to forty million dollars to run a campaign.
Will he or won’t he? As I said, being part of the crowd gives one a whole new dimension that is almost impossible to convey by words and pictures – and one could hardly come away from that hall in Manchester believing that Barack Obama will not run.
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.