Toronto Star

Victory speeches provide lift

Obama, Huckabee come across as being poised, credible, in control, watchers say

- JOE MATTHEWS LOS ANGELES TIMES

NASHUA, N.H.— Pivoting off their wins in the Iowa caucuses, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are taking on New Hampshire fortified by their stirring — and markedly different — victory speeches.

Where Obama’s urgent address to his cheering supporters on caucus night was an updated, carefully staged version of a stump speech refined over months of repetition, Huckabee’s delivery to his own delighted crowd was intimate and folksy, almost shambling in its breeziness.

But their performanc­es showed both candidates poised and in mastery of their words, providing credibilit­y and even some momentum at acritical early moment in the presidenti­al race.

“If you listen to both of them, you come away thinking they seem thoughtful and in control of the situation,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor of communicat­ions at the Annenberg School for Communicat­ions at the University of Pennsylvan­ia.

“It helps innoculate them against attacks that they’re inexperien­ced by showing them in command of their political rhetoric.’’ For Obama, New Hampshire looms as a far more critical test than it does for Huckabee, whose standings in state polls are far lower than they were in Iowa and whose campaign organizati­on has yet to tap the same formidable level of support from evangelica­l Christians.

Even though the Illinois senator’s caucus night speech might have been familiar to Iowans and New Hampshire residents who have attended his rallies in recent months, his evocation of “the moment when we finally beat back the policies of fear and doubts and cynicism” appeared to transfix pundits and television viewers alike, quickly echoing across the Internet.

“Huckabee’s speech was excellent but Barack Obama’s speech was memorable,” former White House adviser David Gergen rhapsodize­d on CNN’s Larry King Live. Huckabee’s low-key performanc­e, which mixed a populist nod to his campaign’s “prairie fire of new hope and zeal” with a quote from Christian thinker G.K. Chesterton, impressed both loyalists and less affiliated viewers.

Karin Hoffman, 57, a nurse from Philadelph­ia and political independen­t who said she was leaning toward supporting the former Arkansas governor, was not familiar with Chesterton’s line about a true soldier fighting “not because he hates those who are in front of him, but because he loves those who are behind him.’’

But she was struck by the sentiment. “It was part of what made the speech so very gracious,” she said.

The ability to strike such a note while touching on campaign leitmotifs was what lifted both victory speeches out of the ordinary, said veteran Republican speechwrit­er Landon Parvin, whose presidenti­al clients have included Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and son George W. Bush.

“The important thing in a victory speech isn’t so much to rehash all your ideas, it’s to be open and welcoming,” Parvin said.

On the campaign trail, Obama has been a model of consistenc­y. In Iowa since Christmas, he hewed closely to the themes laid out in a retooled version of his familiar road speech that was written for the compressed stretch just before the caucuses.

Laden with repetition, the speech raised the possibilit­y of American transforma­tion — and then, with Obama’s victory secured, it became a paean to what his loyalists had achieved.

“You know they said this day would not come,” he told a lively crowd at the Hy-vee Hall in Des Moines. “But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.’’ On Saturday at Nashua High School North, the stock speech was aimed at tomorrow’s primary. But despite Obama’s fatigue and hoarseness, it still had the power to excite. Robert and Susan Hansen of Pepperell, Mass., crossed the state line Saturday morning to hear Obama — solely because of the victory speech from Iowa. “It was unbelievab­le,” said Hansen, who is torn between Obama and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. “A cut below Martin Luther King but more Bobby Kennedy. A tremendous speech, very moving.’’ Huckabee’s victory address, meanwhile, was sparer, stripped of flourishes. He committed “somewhat of a gaffe” at the start, Jamieson said, by taking several minutes to thank his followers and organizers. “That showed he was thinking more about people inside the hall than his national TV audience,” added Jamieson, co-author of an upcoming book on presidenti­al rhetoric, Presidents Creating the Presidency. But Jamieson contends Huckabee’s direct, cooler style of oratory comes off even more appealing to television viewers than Obama’s soaring, traditiona­l imagery.

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 ?? AP PHOTOS BY PAUL SANCYA, RICK BOWMER ?? Republican presidenti­al hopeful Mike Huckabee, left, and Democratic presidenti­al hopeful Senator Barack Obama address supporters in Iowa.
AP PHOTOS BY PAUL SANCYA, RICK BOWMER Republican presidenti­al hopeful Mike Huckabee, left, and Democratic presidenti­al hopeful Senator Barack Obama address supporters in Iowa.

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