Bringing it back down to earth

Times Staff Writer

For those anticipating soaring rhetoric during Barack Obama’s football-stadium appearance Thursday to accept the Democratic presidential nomination, the candidate hopes to lower expectations.

As he set off Monday on a three-day journey to the Denver convention, the Illinois senator described the address he will give as “much more workmanlike” than his keynote speech at the party’s 2004 convention -- the one that catapulted him to the top tier of national political figures.

“I’m not aiming for a lot of high rhetoric,” Obama said after a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa. “I’m much more concerned with communicating how I intend to help middle-class families live their lives.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to turn Obama’s gift for speech-making into a political liability this spring during the nomination fight. Picking up where the New York senator left off, Obama’s Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has suggested that his rhetoric masks naivete and inexperience.


But by staging his nomination acceptance speech in a 75,000-seat stadium, Invesco Field at Mile High, Obama has only heightened expectations that he can surpass the rhetorical impact of his 2004 address.

In that speech, the theme of which was hope, he moved a national television audience when he described himself as “a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him too.”

But at the time, he said Monday, “nobody knew who I was.”

“I don’t think you can duplicate that kind of moment,” Obama told reporters on the tarmac here before boarding his campaign’s blue-and-white charter jet.


Earlier, at a fairground just across the Mississippi River in Davenport, Obama offered hints of how he’ll try to show voters that he is not a lofty elitist, as critics portray him.

“My mom, she was a single mom,” Obama said, “and when she was working and going to school at the same time, there were a few patches there where she had to get food stamps to make sure that we had enough to eat.

“So I know what you’ve gone through, and that’s why I’m in politics. Politics didn’t bring me to working people. Working people brought me to politics.”

At a time when polls suggest that Obama has had a tough time connecting with working-class voters, he also recalled that he and his wife, Michelle, went through economic struggles of their own not long ago.


Six years ago, he told the crowd, “Michelle and I were still living in a small, overcrowded condo, without a garage, so we had to scrape the ice off of the [car] windows, and were still in debt for our student loans.”