'Something Stirring in the Air' in New Hampshire

On Sen. Barack Obama's final whistle-stop tour before the first-in-the-nation primary, there was simply not enough room on the platform to accommodate the adoring crowds. In Rochester, the overflow included a billy goat and a beauty queen, both of whom wore Obama regalia.

"This train is leaving the station," Obama told supporters huddling in the snow, urging them to vote. "We're about to make history. And five years from now, you don't want to be left thinking you didn't have a role in changing America — because you were sitting on the sofa and not part of the process."

Earlier in the day, in Lebanon, the crowd that turned up at the town hall was double what had been expected.


"We're riding a wave," Obama told the crowd gathered outside the town hall. "You're the wave and I'm riding it."

To the crowd inside the hall, he said, "There's something stirring in the air. You can feel it!"

Obama is brimming with confidence and at times, he's downright cocky.

"We are happy warriors for change," he told the crowd. "We are cheerful about the prospect of taking over." He quickly corrected himself, saying "The American people are taking over their government again. Wouldn't that be a great thing?"

Obama Phenomenon

Voters have high hopes for him as well. New Hampshire voter Henry Holmeyer is supporting Obama because he believes he can bring the country together.

"I think he can reach across the aisle and get Democrats and Republicans working together, which is key," said Holmeyer. "I'd like to see someone with his charisma. I see a John Kennedy charisma. This is my third time to see Obama."

Bill Gergen, former chief of staff to President Clinton, has been coming to New Hampshire for 30 years. He says he has never seen crowds like these.

"You heard people talking about Bobby," Gergen said, referring to former Sen. Robert Kennedy who ran for president in 1968 and was assassinated during his campaign. "One man walked up to me and said 'I never got to see Bobby, but I always believed in him. This is another Bobby moment.'"

A newspaper endorsement went further. The Portsmouth Herald endorsed Obama, "We believe that Obama is like another candidate, a lightly experienced man from Illinois who burst upon the national scene in the midst of the country's greatest crisis in 1860. Abraham Lincoln matched up with his times. We believe the same of Barack Obama."

Obama campaign staffers privately admitted they felt a little embarrassed about that one.

Today the enthusiasm of the crowds is such that some even brought their animals to campaign events to have them blessed by the candidate.

The billy goat, decked out with an Obama placard, has also met Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., according to his owner. But the goat was not allowed near Obama.

Another man in Lebanon dressed his two English Labradors in red Obama vests, but the Secret Service turned them away at the door. He said he may petition the Westminster Kennel Club to create a new breed: Obama dogs. His would be "best in show."

Little wonder, the candidate seems to have the makings of a messiah complex.

"There's something stirring around the country," Obama said in a stump speech today. "It started in Iowa and now it's happening here in New Hampshire."

"I'm going to be so persuasive that a light will shine through the clouds and say I must vote for Barack and you'll have an epiphany," he told voters in Lebanon.

New Hampshire voter John O'Donnell had his epiphany. "I'm a lifelong Republican who is now a registered Democrat," he said, all because of Obama. O'Donnell admitted that his vote for Obama is mostly a vote against someone else.

The thought of another Clinton co-presidency is an unspeakable horror. "That's why I'm here," said O'Donnell.

But for New Hampshire voter Bernie Folta, the choice isn't down to Clinton and Obama — it's between Obama and McCain.

"I came to see a political master at work and he's good," Folta said of Obama.

Clinton Campaign on the Attack

The Clinton campaign is trying to stifle Obama's momentum and in the past 24 hours has offered a variety of different attacks.

That Obama's New Hampshire campaign chair is a registered state lobbyist; that he voted to fund the troops, even though he opposed the war; that his phone bank happened to call someone on the Do Not Call List.

Today Obama took it all in stride

"In one day, we can say we've had enough of the partisan food fight," Obama said in a speech today. "We don't like the trivialization of our politics."

Today he also stopped briefly at Jack's Coffee Shop in New London. But there was no coffee for Obama, even though he needs the energy. He ordered tea with honey and lemon, to soothe his ravaged voice.

He is already looking way beyond New Hampshire.

"Well Nevada comes up after, that so we want to win Nevada, then South Carolina comes up after that we want to try to win that. Then the Feb. 5 states, and we want to win all the states. And then after that hopefully I have enough delegates and I will win the nomination and I will go to the convention so that would be the sequence of events that we're looking for."