LEXINGTON, S.C. — Barack Obama, on his third of four campaign stops today in South Carolina, is looking laid-back but a bit beat here at the Lexington Municipal Complex. (It’s 6:30 p.m.; 24 hours ago, he was preparing for the Myrtle Beach debates, and this morning he began clear across the state from there, working his way back south-east today. His final stop will be in (allegedly!) an hour with…Usher.
(Yes, Usher Raymond. And Kerry Washington, who is, umm, of acting fame.)
He went on nearly 90 minutes late; the crowd did not seem to mind waiting. But when he did get there, he had a difficult time finding his way into a groove; it sounds to me that there are some little added sections to his talk that stress the economy. (Polls say! Voters more worried about economy than war!)
Over the last year, his speeches have gone from long-winded paragraphs with no room for laughter or applause to shorter, more organized talks that satisfy audiences and allow them to become emotionally involved.
But tonight he had to tell the audience when to clap. While the section of the speech that praised the sacrifice of soldiers is a no-brainer for any candidate as an applause line, he didn’t deliver it that way, and so when two or three people cautiously applauded, he got it, and said, “That’s worth applauding” and waited. And at first, he was giving up a lot more “umms” — sometimes more than two per sentence.
But he warmed up fast. The middle of the speech is familiar territory:
For example, his line about how countries should talk to their enemies as well as their friends. The audience got jazzed as he hit his stride; they clapped for everything, including the closing of Guantanamo.
“Just the same old Washington tactics,” he said of the debate scuffle with Hillary Clinton last night. And then he repeated this story:
“I, uh, I was amused in a previous debate where Senator Cllinton voted for a bankruptcy bill…. and Senator Clinton had said ‘Well I voted for it but I hoped it wouldn’t pass… That is typical of how Washington operates and that is why you are so cynical about our government,” he said.
So, he said, he had experience with real people. “I don’t mean that kind of experience,” he said, and singled out people who do “poll-testing [of] every position.” He was done shortly thereafter–at eight minutes to seven, and took questions, asking in particular for questions from undecided voters.
Guess what came up? “The Clintons have been using my remark about Ronald Reagan to beat me over the head,” he somehow got to say. Also all those “scurrilous emails” about him being a Muslim.