Although the New Hampshire primary is more than a year away, Sen. Barack Obama's visit to the state this weekend has caused a flurry of activity in the political world, and not just because of the excitement among Democrats calling for him to run for president.
People also are watching what seems to have become an intense competition between the Illinois senator and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, even though neither candidate has officially declared his or her candidacy.
For two relatively green liberal Democratic senators with ties to Illinois (Obama represents the state; Clinton was raised there), the two are a study in contrasts.
Until late Saturday night when his Midway Airlines plane touched down in the Granite State, in fact, Obama had never even set foot in the state of New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary. Contrast that with Clinton, whose husband Bill Clinton became the comeback kid in that key primary almost 15 years ago.
"It is a wonderful story line," Cokie Roberts told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition," "to look at a rivalry between the possible first female president and the possible first black president and the older woman, the younger man; the person with the seasoning, the person with the excitement."
Another difference that may prove pivotal among liberal primary- and caucus-voting Democrats is that Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, and Obama opposed the war from the beginning.
"If I was part of Clinton's inner circle right now I'd be worried about Obama because he has the ability to raise money," said Donna Brazille, former campaign manager for Al Gore. "He also has the ability to tap into a vast network of activists who are still undecided and are interested, too, in someone who can win a general election."
Both of Obama's scheduled New Hampshire events -- a book signing in Portsmouth and a Democratic state party victory celebration in Manchester -- sold out quickly. The party event had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate the intense interest among activists and media.
"Obama-mania," as some have dubbed it, surrounds a man with a critically-acclaimed best-selling book who wowed the crowds with his 2004 Democratic convention speech, but who, a little over two years ago, was a mere Illinois state legislator. He may be a "rock star" superseding even U2's Bono, as Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, joked during an Obama mid-term election campaign stop in that first-caucus-in-the-nation state, but how long can that last as voters learn more about the man and not just the myth?
"Up until now, he's been the adored subject of a very, almost fawning national press," said Lynn Sweet, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. "I think when you have the scrutiny of a presidential campaign put on and that spotlight, things might change."
Already, Clinton allies are saying Obama is untested, has accomplished little by way of legislation and does not have the experience to be president.
"I think the real question is, 'Do I have the judgment to be president, or do I have the vision to be president? Do I have the passion to be president?' " Obama said in an interview on "Nightline."