BALTIMORE—Surfing a wave of momentum, a visibly confident Barack Obama was received rapturously here by a capacity crowd at the 1st Mariner Arena late Monday afternoon.
Obama expressed his relish for a general election contest with John McCain and explicitly took on the arguments proffered against his candidacy by Hillary Clinton.
Paraphrasing his critics, the Illinois senator posited the idea that "Obama can make good speeches and he’s got some nice proposals but he hasn’t been in Washington long enough."
As the idea was met with predictable hoots of derision, Obama added, "The American people don’t seem to be buying this argument." Instead, he asserted, people see the dangers in allowing "the same old characters to run the same old games, doing the same old okey-doke."
By way of aside, Obama told the crowd, many of whom were African-American, "I had to explain that (phrase) to Ted Kennedy. Ted said, ‘Is it like okey-dokey?’ And I said, ‘Nah, it’s okey-doke!’"
Returning to more orthodox political ground, Obama stressed his purported crossover appeal, claiming he can persuade some Republicans to support him and even coining a term—Obamacans—to describe them.
Despite the fact that Obama did not appear until two and a half hours after doors opened, he was accorded the kind of euphoric welcome that his campaign has become accustomed to.
"Our nation is at war, our planet is in peril," each clause was punctuated by a loud "Yeah!" from the crowd.
And when he made his standard remark about the relief he believes voters will feel in November because "the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot," he held the microphone out toward the crowd, frontman-style, the better to pick up the cacophonous cheers.
Shortly afterward, one of the event’s most striking moments came when the crowd burst into an apparently spontaneous chant of "It’s your time! It’s your time!" Thousands of fingers were pointed in Obama’s direction.
Obama himself projected a certain leeriness of letting expectations getting too far ahead of his potential to meet them.
Even if he were elected president, he told the crowd, "If you’re not putting pressure on members of Congress, if you’re not holding your government accountable, nothing’s going to change.
"If you are just waiting for me to solve every problem and then you just go back to … complaining … then nothing’s going to change," he said.
And, when the "It’s your time!" shouts rang out, Obama was careful to connect them to his preferred narrative—also forcefully put forward by the man who introduced him, Representative Elijah Cummings—that his candidacy is not a campaign but a movement.
"It’s your time," Obama insisted.