Maureen Down Not Impressed With Obama in Iowa

While the media reports I’ve read of Obama’s campaign trip to Iowa were quite favorable, Maureen Dowd was less impressed. She attributes this partially to the double stress of giving up smoking as well as starting a Presidential campaign:

“I’ve been chewing Nicorette all day long,” he told reporters at a press conference in Ames on Sunday, where he was getting irritated at suggestions that he lacked substance and at the specter of his vanishing privacy. And, oh yes, at the accusation by the Australian prime minister (sounding two sheep short of a paddock) that Mr. Obama’s deadline to get out of Iraq made him Al Qaeda’s dream candidate.

The Illinois senator didn’t have on an implacable mask of amiability, as Hillary did in Iowa. He didn’t look happily in his element, like Bill Clinton. But he certainly didn’t look as if he was straining to survive the Q .& A.’s, as W. did in the beginning.

Beyond his smooth-jazz façade, the reassuring baritone and that ensorcelling smile, the 45-year-old had moments of looking conflicted.

In the lobby of the AmericInn in Iowa Falls on Saturday night, he seemed a bit dazed by his baptism into the big-time. He was left munching trail mix all day while, he said, “the press got fed before me.”

Everything was a revelation for him: The advance team acronym RON, for Rest Overnight. Women squealing. “I saw a hat,” he noted with a grin, “that said, ‘Obama, clean and articulate.’ ”

Senator Obama’s body language was loose — and he’s so slender his wedding band looked as if it was slipping off — but there was a wariness in his dark eyes.

He is backed up by a strong, smart wife and a professional campaign team, but he doesn’t have a do-whatever-it-takes family firm with contract killers and debt collectors, like Bush Inc. and Clinton Inc.

He was eloquent, if not as inspiring as his advance billing had prepared audiences to expect. He made his first Swift-boat-able slip when he had to apologize for talking about soldiers’ lives “wasted” in Iraq. He sounded self-consciously pristine at times, as if he was too refined for the muck of politics. That’s not how you beat anybody but Alan Keyes.

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