He reiterates his unswerving opposition to the war in Iraq — a line that always gets the biggest cheer — leaving unsaid the fact his two main rivals, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina voted to back the invasion before turning against the war. He outlines his proposal to draw down U.S. troops, bringing them home by April 2008.
He offers other specifics, spaced over an hour or so: He would shut down the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He favors a big boost in the mileage standards imposed on U.S. automakers. He would increase the money the U.S. spends on foreign aid from 1% to 2% of the federal budget, make the U.S. a leader in fighting global warming.
Voters have questions
But he is vague about some things — how he would force those standards on automakers, for example — and simplistic about others. "It's not rocket science," he says of achieving universal healthcare, a goal that has stymied politicians for generations.
Some walk away less than satisfied. "He was telling me the problems, which I agree with," builder Steve Larson, 50, says in Conway.
"He was telling me solutions in general. But specifically he wasn't telling me how big this pill was that we need to swallow."
A day later, George Hathorn is part of the sprawl covering a grassy swath at Dartmouth. But the 63-year-old architect is more curious that convinced. "I'm concerned about the hype," Hathorn says of Obama's comet-like candidacy. "I haven't seen the substance yet."
It is this question — involving the percentages of steak and sizzle — that dogs Obama, and it clearly irks him. Told of the criticism expressed by some in the crowd, Obama blames those covering his campaign. "One of the questions that I think I would ask back at you," he says, "is what do we need to do to get the national press to focus on those speeches we've been delivering in great detail?"
His tone, however, is even, not angry.
Suffering fools and reporters is very much a part of running for president and if that bothers Obama, if the atmospherics, the minute scrutiny and stagy photo opportunities ever get to him, he doesn't let on.
As he stands on the porch of the Littleton Area Senior Center, making small talk with the gray-haired ladies, one of Obama's two daughters, 5-year-old Sasha, pipes up and asks, "When are we going to do fun things?"
"This is fun things," her father replies.
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