Obama Presidency a 'Stretch' for Voters

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 11:39 AM

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama knows it's a stretch to think of him as president.

Just 46 years old and three years out of the Illinois legislature, the freshman senator also understands that the clock is ticking on his chance to surmount that "certain threshold" and convince voters he's ready for the White House.

"The challenge for us is to let people know what I've accomplished at a time when the campaign schedule is getting so compressed," Obama said in a recent interview. "I just don't have much time to make that case."

He's right about that. Iowa Democrats begin winnowing the field late this year or in early January with their first-in-the nation caucuses. Then comes a few more early voting states before a multistate primary on Feb. 5 that could determine the nomination.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards are tied with Obama in polls of Iowa Democrats. The former first lady has a huge lead in national surveys of Democratic voters, and the backing of a political machine built by her husband, former President Clinton.

Obama has the broadest network of grass-roots activists, or at least that seems to be the case based on the record number of people who have donated money to his campaign _ often in small amounts _ and the size of crowds at his campaign events.

He's also got a message that's fit for the times: Obama promises to bring change to a political system that most voters think is broken.

But he's got that nagging problem ...

"... People have to feel comfortable that, 'You know what? This guy can handle the job,'" he said between campaign stops last weekend in Iowa.

"It's a stretch for them because I haven't been on the national scene for long and haven't gone through the conventional paths that we traditionally draw for our presidents, so they've got to stretch a little bit during a period where there's a lot of stuff going on internationally, right?" said the unusually self-aware Obama.

Obama's rivals, especially Clinton, don't want voters making that leap of faith.

They pounce on Obama's every gaffe (i.e. referring to U.S. lives lost in Iraq as "wasted"), exploit any misstatement (saying 10,000 people died in a tornado that actually killed 12) and call Obama naive for stating the obvious (nuclear arms against Afghanistan and Pakistan are not an option).

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