After months of delivering a remarkably consistent stump speech, Barack Obama broke out a brand new one for his “closing argument” to Iowa voters. (Its unveiling yesterday was overshadowed by the Bhutto assassination.) The spirit of the thing is the same as the speech he has been delivering, which is more or less the same as the speech he delivered on the convention floor in 2004.
A couple thoughts. First, the speech is filled with the gently-drawn contrasts that have characterized much of the Democratic race. Aside for a period where Edwards went full bore on Clinton, and a very brief time where Clinton open fire (disastrously) on Obama, the Democratic campaign has been filled with statements like, “Some believe you make change by hoping for it, some believe you make change by demanding it, I believe you make change by working hard for it.” Lines such as these require listeners informed enough (Obama=hope; Edwards=fight) to understand their connotations.
Second, Obama has included one of the better lines of the entire campaign. Responding to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s accusation that electing him would be a “roll of the dice,” Obama says, “The truth is, you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Mine is rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. I believe deeply in those words. But they are not mine. They were Bill Clinton’s in 1992, when Washington insiders questioned his readiness to lead.”
And third, it’s kind of amazing that Obama has been able to ride this “new kind of politics” message for so long. It really hasn’t changed for years. You can either attribute that to years of fawning, unquestioning press coverage or to a centeredness that hasn’t shifted or been shaken by doubts. Plenty of people have said you can’t hate American politics and still win in them (i.e. that you have to play the game, just a little), but Obama hasn’t compromised.
Things immediately get much, much tougher if he wins the nomination, however.