READING, Penn.—One of Mr. Obama’s most popular and oft-repeated applause lines is “I love you back.”
That he gets a chance to say this so often illustrates the fervor Obama has grown used to as he has campaigned across the country. But even by the usually adoring standards, the diverse crowd filling a high school gym here this afternoon was especially emphatic.
He began, as he nearly always does, by saying he has been running so long that babies have been born, and learned to walk and learned to talk as he has been on the trail. “There’s one right there,” he said pointing at a blanket-wrapped infant, who looked way too young to walk or talk but who was hoisted in the air by her mother like a trophy. An expecting mother caught his attention and Obama said that “hopefully the primary will be over” before she delivered. With this, the crowd went berserk again.
“This is a feisty crowd — what did y’all eat this morning?” Obama asked.
The crowd was particularly responsive to Obama’s sharp criticisms of John McCain and Hillary Clinton.
“We cannot afford a third George Bush term and that is what John McCain is offering, a third Bush term,” said Obama. As he has done all weekend, he addressed McCain’s military service by saying “I respect John McCain, he is a real American hero,” but then proceeded to attack the Arizona senator for his position on the war in Iraq. “He talks about keeping troops there for another 100 years,” said Obama. “We can’t afford four more years of George Bush economics,” continued Obama. Bush’s philosophy, Obama said, has been, “You lose your job, you’re on your own.”
Then he moved on to Hillary Clinton.
“Senator Clinton is a smart person, she is a hard working person, she is a tenacious person,” Obama said, sounding like Mark Antony talking about Brutus. (Obama ignored the guy in the back of the gym who called out “She lies.”)
He criticized her position on lobbyists and her negative campaign tactics.
“I think we have to change the tone of our politics,” he said.
“Our campaign’s not perfect,” he added. “You get elbowed enough, eventually, you start throwing some elbows back.”
The crowd gave him multiple standing ovations throughout, and punctuated his speech by stomping to the chant of “Yes We Can” on the bleachers.