The Jefferson-Jackson dinner was the last stop of Senator Barack Obama's five day tour of Iowa, and it was his last chance to make an impact. He has been repeatedly criticized for lacking the zeal that thrust him into the limelight after the 2004 Democratic National Convention, but on Friday he told reporters that he's still "got it."
The Jefferson-Jackson dinner proved that Obama still has ... something.
Obama took the stage with determination as supporters roared from both sides of the auditorium. Although this partisan event was more like a "battle of the bands" for campaign supporters, Obama was especially affected by the cheers for him. As he began speaking, a supporter yelled, "I love you Barack!" Obama shouted, "I love you back!"
Obama was quick to attack his opponents, including Hillary Clinton although he did not mention Clinton by name, making indirect references to her through out his speech.
"Washington text book campaigns just won't do in this election," Obama said, "Not answering questions just wont do."
He went on to criticize Democrats "thinking the only way to look tough on national security it talking and acting and voting like George Bush Republicans."
Obama's criticisms of Clinton are normally more mild and subdued than his attacks were last night. He sometimes prefaces his criticisms of her and Edwards by saying that they have a lot in common. However, last night, Obama argued that he is more apt to win the general election.
"My opponent won't be able to say that I supported this war in Iraq or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran or that I support that Bush-Cheney diplomacy of not talking to leaders we don't like," Obama said.
He tapped into the emotions of his audience when he said that his run for the presidency was "improbable."
"I am not in this race to fulfill some long held ambitions or because I feel it is owed to me," Obama said. "I'm running because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now."
The general media reaction to Obama's speech last night has been positive. David Yepsen, reporter for The Des Moines Register, said that all of the candidates did well but Obama was most memorable.
"Obama had an edge," Yepsen said. "He rose to the occasion and it did him some good."
Mike Allen of the Politico called Obama the "biggest crowd pleaser," but Allen wrote that a contradiction in Obama's speech may have opened the door for trouble.
Obama said that running for president was not a long-held ambition; however, Allen cites several newspaper interviews with Obama's teachers who said that as a child he wrote that he wanted to be president.
The full effect of Obama's performance is yet to be seen.