I've been mixing up coverage of the Ron Paul movement with coverage of the frontrunners in New Hampshire. Barack Obama arrives late to massive rallies (where half or more of the people in line get turned away, the rooms being just too small) where he uncorks a 30-40 minute stump speech and takes no questions. John McCain busses into hokey town halls where his questions are increasingly friendly and the fire marshalls turn away spectators, who keep trickling in after the events kick off. John Edwards' events go the same way, with smaller crowds. Mike Huckabee holds the goofiest political events since the rise of Screaming Lord Sutch, 60 percent music and Chuck Norris and 40 percent his compassionate conservative spiel. Mitt Romney draws the smallest numbers and turns the most seats empty during his speech.
I have yet to see Clinton in action, but Roger Simon has and frames the difference like this:
Obama said things like: “We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.”
Clinton said things like: “I founded in the Senate the Bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus.”
This increasingly seems off to me: Obama's speeches are veined with cliches like "working for main street, not wall street," and I talk to people coming out who wanted more specifics. (Obama shunts those into one part of the speech, saying "they" don't want you to pay attention to his ideas like $4000 school tuition credits, and the second time I heard it he didn't even tie it to national service.) But I'm not a New Hampshire voter. The sense here is that Romney is melting away and McCain is heading to a 10-point win. Something similar's happening with Clinton-Obama, but not as dramatically. Huckabee is poaching a bit of the protest vote that would otherwise go to Ron Paul. There are people at these events who want a family man, or a guy who'd abolish the IRS, and after Iowa they see Huckabee as more electable.