Obama Formally Enters Presidential Race
在紐約參議員、前第一夫人Hillary Rodham Clinton
以及帶領紐約走過911攻擊陰影的"America's Mayor" Rudolph Giuliani
在Abraham Lincoln的政治生涯起點...the Old State Capitol
announced formation of exploratory, filed with F.E.C.以及formal announcement
Photo Credit : The New York Times
Obama Formally Enters Presidential Race
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and JEFF ZELENY
Published: February 11, 2007 / The New York Times
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, standing before the Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln began his political career, announced his candidacy for the White House on Saturday by presenting himself as an agent of generational change who could transform a government hobbled by cynicism, petty corruption and “a smallness of our politics.”
“The time for that politics is over,” Mr. Obama said. “It is through. It’s time to turn the page.”
Wearing an overcoat but gloveless on a frigid morning, Mr. Obama invoked a speech Lincoln gave here in 1858 condemning slavery — “a house divided against itself cannot stand” — as he started his campaign to become the nation’s first black president.
Speaking smoothly and comfortably, Mr. Obama offered a generational call to arms, portraying his campaign less as a candidacy and more as a movement. “Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done,” he said. “Today we are called once more, and it is time for our generation to answer that call.”
It was the latest step in a journey rich with historic possibilities and symbolism. Thousands of people packed the town square to witness it, shivering in the single-digit frostiness until Mr. Obama appeared, trailed by his wife, Michelle, and two young daughters. (“I wasn’t too cold,” Mr. Obama said later, grinning as he acknowledged a heating device had been positioned at his feet, out of the audience’s view.)
Still, for all the excitement on display, Mr. Obama’s speech also marked the start of a tough new phase in what until now has been a charmed introduction to national politics. Democrats and Mr. Obama’s aides said they were girding for questions about his experience in national politics, his command of policy, a past that has gone largely unexamined by rivals and the news media, and a public persona defined more by his biography and charisma than by how he would seek to use the powers of the presidency.
“He’s done impressively so far, but at some point he’s really going to have to move to the next stage,” said Walter Mondale, the former Democratic vice president who made the phrase “where’s the beef” famous in his 1984 challenge to the credentials of a rival, Gary Hart, the former senator from Colorado.
The formal entry to the race framed a challenge that would seem daunting to even the most talented politician: whether Mr. Obama, with all his strengths and limitations, can win in a field dominated by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who brings years of experience in presidential politics, a command of policy and political history, and an extraordinarily battle-tested network of fund-raisers and advisers.
Mr. Obama has told friends that he views Mrs. Clinton as his biggest obstacle, though his aides said they remained very wary as well of former Senator John Edwards, another rival for the Democratic nomination.
Mr. Obama hit the question of experience in the opening bars of his speech on Saturday, suggesting that he would seek to use his limited time in government as an asset by casting himself as an agent of change who was free from the pull of special interests and politics as usual.
“I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness in this — a certain audacity — to this announcement,” he said. “I know that I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.”
For Mr. Obama’s campaign, struggling to put this unlikely organization together in just three months, the first focus is Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama’s aides said they had spent weeks discussing how to derail what David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, described as “the dominant political organization in the Democratic Party.”
Mr. Obama’s decision to spend the first two days of his presidential campaign in Iowa, where he headed after his announcement, reflected one of the first important strategic decisions in that regard. His organization sees Iowa as a place where he could surprise Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards with an early victory. The eastern part of the state, a critical region for Democrats to win and where Mr. Obama spent the rest of Saturday, shares a media market with neighboring Illinois. Mr. Obama has been a fixture in local news since winning his Senate primary nearly three years ago.
In trying to undercut Mrs. Clinton’s claims of experience, Mr. Obama’s campaign has decided to borrow techniques that Bill Clinton used to defeat the first President Bush in 1992. Mr. Obama, reprising the role of Mr. Clinton, on Saturday presented himself as a candidate of generational change running to oust entrenched symbols of Washington, an allusion to Mrs. Clinton, as he tried to turn her experience into a burden. Mr. Obama is 45; Mrs. Clinton is 59.
But more than anything, Mr. Obama’s aides said, they believe the biggest advantage he has over Mrs. Clinton is his difference in position on the Iraq war. Mrs. Clinton supported the war authorization four years ago. Mr. Obama has opposed the war from the start, and has introduced a bill to begin withdrawing United States troops no later than May 1, with the goal of removing all combat brigades by March 31, 2008, taking a far more explicit stance than Mrs. Clinton on ending the conflict.
“America, it’s time to start bringing our troops home,” he said Saturday. “It’s time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else’s civil war.”
Yet even on a day that pointed to Mr. Obama’s strengths — a big, excited crowd, a speech that in its composition and delivery demonstrated yet again why he is viewed as a singular talent in the Democratic Party — it seems evident that Mr. Obama’s easier days as a candidate have passed. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, or to a lesser extent Mr. Edwards, Mr. Obama has not gone through a full-scale audit that will now come from Republicans, Democrats, journalists and advocacy groups, eager to define him before he defines himself.
Some Democrats, including Mr. Obama’s opponents, seem increasingly game to challenge him, particularly when it comes to the substance of an Obama candidacy. Mr. Edwards offered a hint of what Mr. Obama faced in an interview the other day, as he discussed national health care, when he was asked his reaction to Mr. Obama’s views on providing national coverage.
“I haven’t seen a plan from him,” Mr. Edwards said. “Have you all?”
Mr. Obama has glided to his position in his party with a demeanor and series of eloquent speeches that have won him comparisons to the Kennedy brothers and put him in a position where his status as a black man with a chance to win the White House is only part of the excitement generated by his candidacy.
But with perhaps one major exception, his plan to disengage forces in Iraq, he has avoided offering the kind of specific ideas that his own advisers acknowledge could open him up to attack by opponents or alienate supporters initially drawn by his more thematic appeals.
Mr. Obama went so far as to tell Democrats in Washington last week that voters were looking for a message of hope, and disparaged the notion that a presidential campaign should be built on a foundation of position papers or details.
“There are those who don’t believe in talking about hope: they say, well, we want specifics, we want details, we want white papers, we want plans,” he said then. “We’ve had a lot of plans, Democrats. What we’ve had is a shortage of hope.”
But some Democrats were scornful. “That’s nonsense,” Mr. Hart said. “It posits that it’s either-or. Who’s saying you can’t talk about hope? I’m not talking about white papers: I’m talking about one big speech about ‘How I view the world.’ ”
In an interview before he left for Illinois, Mr. Obama said he realized his powerful appeal as a campaigner would take him only so far. Other campaigns that have relied extensively on the life story of the candidate have typically foundered.
“If a campaign is premised on personality, then no, I don’t think you can stay fresh for a year,” he said. “But if the campaign is built from the ground up and there is a sense of ownership among people who want to see significant change, then absolutely. It can build and grow.”
And in his speech here on Saturday, Mr. Obama, trying to offer himself as the grass-roots outsider in contrast to a member of a political family that has dominated Washington life for 15 years, presented his campaign as an effort “not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation.”
“That is why this campaign can’t only be about me,” Mr. Obama said. “It must be about us. It must be about what we can do together.”