The Portland Press Herald - Obama's 'Mission' is Change
By ELBERT AULL
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama cast himself as
both an idealist and an agent of change Tuesday during his first
Maine appearance -- a campaign speech to some 3,000 people
who paid $23 each to attend.
The Illinois senator touched on Iraq, education, health care and
energy policy but spent the bulk of his half-hour address selling
his lack of Washington experience as a positive.
"Politics is a mission, not just a business," he told the crowd that
filled the Portland Expo.
The speech was light on policy and heavy on messages of hope.
It came as Obama debuted his first television advertisement in
early primary state New Hampshire, and as Sen. Hillary Clinton,
D-N.Y., widened her lead in a poll of likely Granite State voters.
The Portland fundraiser attracted mostly Democrats in their 20s
and 30s who said that although they are drawn to the senator's
idealism, it is far too early to throw their support behind one
Mary Buckelew, 29, of Portland said she would prefer to see
Democrat Dennis Kucinich in the White House, but doesn't
believe the Ohio congressman is electable.
Buckelew said she has decided to pick a front-runner to support.
She said the candidate with the best plan to improve education,
address climate change, support women's rights and find an exit
strategy for Iraq will get her vote.
Buckelew and Bill Harnsberger, 43, of Portland said Obama
piqued their interest after his speech at the Democratic National
Convention in 2004.
Obama draws crowds with his idealistic message, encouraging
Americans to move beyond partisanship, said Harnsberger, a
liberal blogger who is also undecided about who to support in
"I think he's a dynamic speaker. He's really pushing a theme of
uniting Americans," said Harnsberger, a frequent contributor to
the Daily Kos political Web site.
Obama spoke of ending "petty partisan battles," but took swipes
at both the Bush administration and Clinton, whose lead in New
Hampshire is widening, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The University of New Hampshire Survey Center found 43
percent of 307 likely primary voters supported Clinton, while
Obama polled second at 20 percent. The CNN/WMUR poll had a
margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.
Clinton led by a margin of 9 percentage points in a similar poll
"When we refuse to talk to our enemies, that doesn't make us
look tough, that makes us look arrogant," Obama said, a
reference to a dispute that began after a nationally televised
debate in July.
Clinton labeled him "naive" after he said he'd meet with leaders
of "rogue nations" during the first year of his presidency.
The "arrogant" phrase has become part of the candidate's stump
speech since the dispute with Clinton, who told Iowa's Quad-
City Times she found Obama's comments "irresponsible and
Obama jabbed at the Bush administration for its decision to
invade Iraq and cut taxes for wealthy Americans.
He told the crowd the president shouldn't have commuted the
prison term of former vice-presidential chief of staff I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby after his conviction for lying to federal
investigators who were probing the leak of a CIA officer's
"Even Paris Hilton got jail time," Obama said.
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Summer Johnson
said Obama shouldn't be talking about "moral standing" after
sitting out a Senate vote on a resolution that condemned the
liberal interest group MoveOn.org for a newspaper ad criticizing
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
"It seems Obama plays to the kind of politics set forth by
MoveOn.org," Johnson said.
Obama skipped the vote because it was a "stunt designed only
to score cheap political points," his spokesman said in an e-
"The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this
war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements," Robert Gibbs
After the Expo appearance, about 300 people attended an
evening event at the home of Robert A.G. Monks of Cape
Elizabeth, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Gibbs said.
Monks' son, Robert C.S. Monks, is chairman of the Obama for
Supporters expected to raise more than $300,000 for Obama's
campaign between the rally and the reception, the younger