The Audacity of Nope

By Ruth Marcus
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The setting: Late January, outside a Chicago housing project where Sen. Barack Obama once worked as an organizer. The will-he, won't-he debate about the Illinois Democrat has reached a fever pitch.

In the grip of Obama-mania, the networks are poised to break into live programming to cover the announcement. Flanked by his wife and two young daughters, the 45-year-old Obama steps to the microphone.

"My fellow Americans. There's been a lot of talk about whether I'll be a presidential candidate in 2008 -- some of it encouraged by me. I've made my decision, and I won't be running."

Boos and yells of "No!" from the crowd. Obama raises his hands to quiet them.

"Please. I understand your disappointment. To tell you the truth, a part of me is disappointed, too.

"Now that I've gotten the headline out of the way, and let these folks file their leads" -- here Obama gestures to a throng of reporters --"let me tell you a little bit about my thinking.

"First, I have to say how overwhelmed I have been by the reaction of people like you, who had faith enough in me to urge me to run, and faith enough in the American people to believe that I could win. You made it awfully tempting."

Obama flashes a wide smile, pauses. Shouts of "Give in!" and "You can still change your mind!" from the crowd.

"I could tell you the usual: that I decided not to run because I wanted to spend more time with my wonderful wife and children -- that I wanted to be there for my daughters in a way that my father never was for me.

"That would be true, but it wouldn't be the whole story.

"The truth is I don't feel ready" -- another smile and pause-- "right now."

Shouts of "2012! 2012!"

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