November 27th, 2007

On The Trail With Barack Obama: From the Rapid-Fire Dispatches of One Bill Stetson

by Philip Baruth

Norwich notable Bill Stetson has been a fixture on the campaign trail this year, from Dartmouth to Des Moines, never far from the fast-moving operation of Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Bill’s latest dispatch, along with a birds-eye view from his tiny point-and-shoot Canon, follows. For the record, we’re just weeks out from NH.

— PB

obama, jj dinner

Dear VDB,

Yesterday morning, after dropping my daughter at school up the Conn River valley, I realized that I must keep driving north. I flew through the fog up I-91 to I-93 South.

Littleton High School, which takes a dowser to find, sits atop a nameless hill in this odd but interesting town — just a few miles east of the sign: “Gateway to the White Mountains.”

After signing in, waiting, chatting with the pleasant North Country folk, we herded ourselves into the gym, and listened to a local veteran nervously but passionately introduce his candidate.

Then the smiling high schoolers screamed in delight as this seemingly strange man with an even stranger name bounded onto the runway and stage before them.

These are good kids who want a better life than that of the generations that followed the timber and mill booms and busts — their grandparents, parents.

They responded honestly — quietly to references on foreign policy, louder to a reference to the freedom offered by the Second Amendment, louder yet to references to the failures of “No Child Left Behind.”

North Country values.

obama in littleton

There was not much sentiment in that room for the war, but tears for a family (introduced) who had recently lost a son — and pride for that local young man.

Obama, looking rested and energetic, unlike a month ago, used words we’ve all heard for the last few months — hope, positive, fair, (we’re) back. But he added phrases like: “I’m raring to serve my country as your President” — sporting a big, big smile.

Barack brought the crowd to its feet with the “Fired up! Ready to go!” chant, and then, suddenly, it was over.

Then it happened.

I had slipped in to get a feel for the candidate’s message and state-of-mind. As a somewhat peripheral adviser to the campaign, I feel I need to get a glimpse of these rallies — I love them. So, I thought I was a speck in the crowd.

But Obama seeks out those who help him, and he loves Vermonters (his biggest supporters per capita in New England, probably the nation).

He bee-lined over to me: “How’s Jane? How’s Vermont?” Then it came, not a New England thing — a big bear hug.

I love this guy.

obama in littleton