KEENE, N.H. — Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is increasingly confident he will win Tuesday’s primary here, the Democratic nomination and be elected president — bolstered by new polls handing him a decisive lead and big crowds coming out to hear him speak.
“Something is stirring out there,” Obama said at his final stop Sunday, where he filled a hall in a school, with the overflow spilling into an auditorium.
“In two days’ time, we will have a chance to say America is back,” Obama said.
A new USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted after Obama’s Iowa caucus win showed the bounce he gained from his first victory in Iowa; he was at 41 percent to 28 percent for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and 19 percent for former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). Manchester’s WMUR survey pegged Obama’s lead at 39 percent to 29 percent for Clinton.
Obama’s was emboldened enough that on Sunday night, he proclaimed, “I beat McCain, I beat Romney, I beat Huckabee, I beat Thompson, I beat all of them,” referring to the Republican front-runners.
Obama has retooled his stump speech here to appeal specifically and overtly to independents — a critical swing group in New Hampshire politics — as well as Republicans. Where in Iowa he had someone introduce him who would vouch for his experience, in New Hampshire, he is asking people who are independents or former Republicans to speak on his behalf.
Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), who ran for president in 2000 and who has a reputation as a maverick, is endorsing Obama. He is seen by the Obama campaign as the kind of figure who could sway independents. In 2000, Bradley saw his independent support move to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another maverick. McCain is running again, but the Obama team sees McCain support of the Iraq war as a non-starter for the independents Obama is targeting.
Obama’s stump speech added a new element Sunday, courtesy of an opening Clinton put in his lap in Saturday’s debate when she talked about “false hope.”
At the debate, Clinton was talking about her ability to make change, in an attempt to dilute the ownership claims Obama and Edwards have been making as change agents.
“And we don’t need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered,” Clinton said. Obama did not reply at the debate, but throughout Sunday he ridiculed Clinton — not by name — over “this notion of false hopes. Bugs the heck out of me,” he said at Exeter.
“That is contrary to what America is about, the notion that we shouldn’t just try to do something because we believe in it, because it is false hopes. There is no such thing as false hopes. We can focus and get stuff done.”
Obama’s campaign was put on the defensive by Clinton. Obama, who bashes Washington lobbyists, has a professional lobbyist, Jim Demers, as his New Hampshire campaign co-chairman, Clinton noted.