Raleigh, N.C.– After twenty-nine years of covering presidential politics for HUMAN EVENTS, I am hard-pressed to recall a primary night speech that aroused as much discussion among my colleagues as the one Barack Obama delivered Tuesday night following his smashing win in the North Carolina primary.
Leaving the Reynolds Coliseum at North Carolina State University following Obama’s address, colleague Kevin Connelly of BBC started the discussion, noting the references to his grandfather’s service in World War II and burial with the Stars and Stripes, the language of patriotism and the close with “God Bless America.” (NOTE: Although some said this was Obama;’s first use of the phrase, ABC-TV senior political correspondent Jake Tapper told me this morning that he has covered Obama and “he has said that before”).
“He’s sounding like a general election candidate, all right,” Kevin concluded, later making the same points on the aptly-named BBC radio program “Up All Night.”
Over breakfast the following morning at the Executive Suites Hotel in Raleigh, conversation with my colleague Pamela Gentry, Washington Bureau Chief of the Black Entertainment Television Networks was almost exclusively about “the speech” and how conciliatory Obama sounded. Rather than sounding triumphant over an opponent he clearly does not like, Obama spoke as a unifier and even offered veiled respect for Hillary Clinton: “The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences, to turn us against each other for political gain. . .This is what they [the Republicans] will do, no matter which one of us is the nominee. The question, then, is not, what kind of campaign they’ll run; it’s what kind of a campaign we will run.”
Could Obama still be thinking it’s possible Clinton could overtake him and become the nominee? In all likelihood, no. But he clearly has in mind what Philadelphia City Councilman and Obama backer Bill Green called “the Clintons’ kitchen sink strategy” — to inflict damage on Obama enough so that he loses to John McCain in the fall and Hillary is positioned to run in 2012. By treating her as an equal and focusing on the fall rather than the remaining Democratic contests, Obama is showing respect and helping to make it easier for what appears to be her likely exodus from the race. (In his remarks, Obama acknowledged “bruised feelings” in both camps during their protracted nomination battle.).
“[He] made an argument,” the New York Times’ veteran political correspondent Adam Nagourney wrote on the morning after the primary, “In doing so, he made an argument for his viability in a general election, which his rivals believe has been damaged because of his association with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.”
“This was different because in past primary night speeches, Obama had a tendency to sound a little less than gracious,” a reporter from Canada told me, “Now he’s got his ‘mojo’ back.’”