Presidential hopeful Barack Obama speaks during a campaign stop today in Peterborough, N.H. (AP Photo)
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. -- Barack Obama woke up today with a bad head cold and a bad headline: A new University of New Hampshire poll shows Hillary Clinton way ahead of him (43 percent to 20 percent) among Granite State Democrats.
But at least he got lucky with the weather. About 1,000 people (according to the campaign's count) came out for a pre-debate rally this morning under unrelenting sunshine in bucolic Peterborough, in the southwest part of the state.
Notable -- other than the unseasonably warm temperature -- was Obama's sharper critique of the ways of Washington, and, obliquely, of Clinton herself. Will we see more of this when the Democrats meet tonight at Dartmouth College?
Obama began with his standard stump speech, but he added some new attacks on the Beltway that left little doubt about whom he was referring to.
"George Bush and Dick Cheney may have perfected the art of special-interest driven partisan politics, but they didn't invent it," Obama said. "It was there before they came into office, and if we're not careful it will be there after they leave. That's what's at stake in this election."
Translation: The Clintons, too, are purveyors of partisan politics, and a Clinton White House would be more of the same.
Obama continued: "Now there are those in this race who tout their experience working the system as is. And what I have to remind them of is that the system has not been working for us. There are those who say we just need somebody who can play the game better in Washington. And what I'm saying is that we need to put an end to the game-playing."
Translation: Don't believe the hype from Clinton supporters that I have too few years in Washington; that's an asset.
Obama then went on to note that "we [read: Clinton] have been talking about our health care crisis for decades now, through Democratic and Republican administrations. And yet year after year after year after year, nothing seems to change."
UPDATE: The Obama campaign takes issue with the characterization of today's attacks on Washington as "new." They contend Obama has said much the same thing for three weeks.