'Obama, you convinced me'

Fresh off his momentous victory in the Iowa caucuses and with a voice hoarse from frenetic campaigning, Barack Obama is emphasizing a message of unity between Democrats, Republicans and independents, which could potentially shore up his independent base in New Hampshire while portraying him as electable in the general election. His new stump speech makes unity its central theme. It gives only slight mention to policy specifics and outlines a broad vision of uniting the country for change.

He attributed his Iowa victory to a broad coalition. "We won with everyone, with Democrats, Republicans, independents, young and old, the union vote and non-union vote, men and women, black and white," he said. If Obama wins the Democratic primary, he pledged to unify the party, then "go out to gather independents and Republicans and form a working majority" to win the general election. "We'll build a coalition that stretches between red states and blue states -- that's how we'll win in November," he said.

But before he can reach that point, Obama must convince his supporters to turn out. New Hampshire is always important, and this is going to be a very decisive primary," Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, told the Monitor.

Addressing several hundred voters in a cold airline hangar in Portsmouth, Obama asked undecided voters to raise their hands. When about a dozen did, he joked, "We're coming after you." And many attendees seemed convinced.

Sandra Woodworth, 59, of North Hampton jumped up and down holding an Obama sign. She was jumping, she said, out of both cold and enthusiasm. "I'm so excited we have a
candidate I can be excited about," she said.

As Obama circulated, Bob Landman, 64, an electrical engineer from North Hampton yelled, "Obama, you convinced me!"

- Shira Schoenberg