ABOARD OBAMA ONE — It’s a few hours after Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential bid was launched in a telegenic rally on Saturday in Springfield on the square where Abraham Lincoln once walked and worked.
Now the Illinois Democrat, having wrapped up his speech, is aboard his campaign plane. It is an American Airlines 757 charter dubbed by one of the Chicago-based flight attendants “Obama One.”
It’s apt. It may stick.
Iowa, here he comes.
The aircraft is flying over the Illinois prairie headed west toward the state with the leadoff 2008 presidential caucus next January.
Obama is now in a presidential bubble, traveling in motorcades, appearing at events highly organized by squads of “advance’ people.
He is followed on this day by 57 journalists who are wearing “traveling press” tags around their necks. On the plane, the press is seated in the back and the Obama contingent — his wife, Michelle, their two daughters, aides, friends and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — are in the front. The journalists pay for their seats.
Obama triggers a small frenzy when he starts a stroll down the narrow aisle to meet those who will be covering him, some for the next year.
As he starts to shake hands, the photographers and videographers drop their turkey or roast beef sandwiches and leap from the seats. It’s a pileup that never would be tolerated on a commercial flight. Obama gets through only a few rows.
Later, he emerges again, this time plunging through the cameras with Michelle to introduce his wife. Michelle Obama will play a central role in the campaign. She will have her own chief of staff based at the Chicago campaign headquarters and she will be a key surrogate on the speaking and fundraising trail.
“We’re going to make this fun,” Michelle Obama said.
Now Durbin is in the aisle. He is one of Obama’s biggest White House boosters. He was with Obama, his family and some others in a holding area in the Old State Capitol before the rally.
Obama, asked his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to lead them in prayer before he went on stage. Everyone joined hands. “It was a moment you remember,” said Durbin.
It was quiet.
Then Obama said, “Let’s go.”
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The press corps following Obama is just too big to allow for the living-room chats Iowa residents have come to expect in a presidential campaign.
Here at the John F. Kennedy High school, the gym is packed. But at this early phase, people are window shopping. Obama has a ways to go to make the sale.
Scott Benson, 58, a computer consultant, is a Democrat not committed to any of the 2008 hopefuls though he is most interested in Obama and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).
Edwards has made at least 17 visits to Iowa since 2005. Saturday marked Obama’s fourth visit during that same time span. While Obama and Clinton lead in the national polls, in Iowa, Edwards is a major factor.
Sharon McElmeel, a writer, likes Obama because “he has some reasonable solutions. But I also like the same things about (Iowa) Gov. Tom Vilsack.”
Obama, determined to make his a different type of presidential campaign — and to draw a contrast with Clinton — decided not to make a stump speech.
In this town hall, no-fanfare format Obama talks about how he hopes to raise money from the Internet and small donors but the reality is if he does not get money for television ads, he said his White House race “will be a footnote.”
He also framed his unique biography in an interesting way in talking about himself.
Obama — family scattered across the globe, biracial parentage, son of a Kenyan, exposure to Islamic culture as a youth living in Indonesia, raised in Hawaii — if elected would bring a multi-cultural perspective to the Oval Office.
Said the senator, “One of my strengths as a leader is that there is a lot of different pieces of America in me.”