Lebanon, NH -- With recent polls showing him firmly ahead of his Democratic rivals, a confident Barack Obama seems to be looking past the primary season and previewing the themes of his national campaign.
Instead of addressing New Hampshire voters on local issues before Tuesday's primary, like many of the other presidential hopefuls, Obama is casting himself as part of a broad historical narrative emphasizing America's most significant progressive movements and achievements.
Speaking today at the historic Lebanon opera house, Obama made it clear that this is no longer a question of winning a majority in New Hampshire, but nationally. "We're on the cusp of creating a new majority that won't just win a nomination, a generation election, but that will allow us to govern."
At a campaign event here on Monday, it wasn't Obama who spoke to staple New Hampshire voting issues, but local restauranteur Nick Jager.
Obama instead spoke of his candidacy to the eight hundred attendees primarily as part of a long history of charismatic and transformational leaders, specifically John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. He related the significance of the upcoming election with the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, the defeat of fascism, and, critically, the civil rights movement.
Quoting Dr. King, Obama told the audience that we now face what King described as "the fierce urgency of now" and, just as then, "we can not wait." Responding to opponents' criticisms that he is instilling voters with "false hopes" for the future, Obama scoffed at the image of King telling people to "the dream will die" or JFK telling Americans "the moon is too far."
Monday's event in Lebanon followed a similar morning rally in Claremont, and preceded evening rallies in Rochester and Concord. The rallies offer little opportunity for the audience to engage Obama directly on New Hampshire issues. Unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton's closing events today, which featured extended question-and-answer periods designed to discuss local policy matters, Obama's rallies last only as long as his speeches.
Suggesting that he's now running against an era, not this cycle's presidential candidates, Obama pitched himself as the candidate who can fix "the problems that George W. Bush may have made far worse, but have been festering long before George Bush took office." He also referred to himself as "a president who will be straight with you and talk to you in clear terms -- and he (I) wasn't referring to pronouncing 'nuclear.'"
Obama's presentation stands in contrast to Hillary Clinton's recent stump speech. Clinton, who"s fallen significantly in the polls in recent weeks, credited herself with insuring 7,000 of New Hampshire's children and providing 324,000 children access to vaccines against childhood illnesses. Specific New Hampshire facts and figures were noticeably absent from Obama's speech.
As much as Obama's rhetoric is indicative of his growing support nationwide, it also reveals how he has earned such widespread support. Obama's candidacy has always been grounded in his broad appeals to voters that they are electing "hope," and a grand move past partisanship and a corrupt Washington culture.
On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, however, there are few reminders that Obama is still campaigning in the Granite State.