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Commentary: Obama changes the game

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Barack Obama proves to naysayers he can win, Roland S. Martin says
  • Martin: Senator's able to connect with Americans on emotional, spiritual level
  • Martin: Obama aims to bridge divide between liberals, conservatives and young, old
  • Obama White House would be dawn of a new day in America, columnist says
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Watch Roland Martin "Sound Off," Tuesday on Live at 11:10 a.m. ET.


Roland S. Martin: Sen. Barack Obama's win in the Iowa caucuses proves he's electable.

(CNN) -- You may find a bunch of political operatives who will suggest that they always believed a black man named Barack Obama would blow away his competitors in Iowa and would destroy the inevitability of a former first lady who is a member of the U.S. Senate.

If that's the case, just walk away because they are lying.

I was there on that frigid February day in Springfield, Illinois, when Obama, standing in the shadows of the old Capitol where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "House Divided" speech, announced his candidacy for president. While the senator's soaring rhetoric was warmly received, it was assumed that, if he could just survive the first two states, maybe he wouldn't embarrass himself.

But the game has changed, and all of a sudden, there is a sense that Obama could win this thing. Video Watch Martin discuss what difference Iowa has made »

Yet even after getting dusted by nine points in Iowa and watching Obama walk away with more female voters than herself, Hillary Clinton continues to assert that it will be impossible for Obama to get elected in November against a Republican challenger.

When I asked Obama about that in an interview for my radio show on WVON in Chicago and for CNN, he couldn't help but laugh.

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"Look at what happened in Iowa," the senator said. "We had Republicans who crossed over to vote for me. We had more independents caucusing for me than anybody. That's the reason why the polls show I'm the only Democrat that beats every Republican.

"What I think they are suggesting is that being engaged in this brutal brawl with the Republicans, that that's somehow the recipe for Democrats to win. I disagree. The strategy is to pick off Republicans and independents by having a positive agenda for change."

He added, "You can't say someone's not electable when they keep on winning elections."

But there is something else going on here. Obama is the first candidate of his generation truly to be an agent of change who inspires, motivates and ignites the passion in a large segment of Americans who had ignored politics because it was unseemly and didn't move people to action.

My e-mail inbox and my talk show lines filled up with people who say that listening to Obama empowers them to get involved, that he is able to connect with them on an emotional and spiritual level that is reminiscent of John and Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sure, for a significant segment, Ronald Reagan represented that kind of hope in 1980.

Gary Hart had the potential to do that, until his personal issues derailed his campaign for the 1988 election. And Bill Clinton touched the hearts and minds of the baby boomers in 1992.

But this appears to be something different. Obama seeks to serve as a bridge between the divisions in America that exist between young and old, haves and have-nots, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats.

It's reminiscent of Lincoln's speech and King's book, "Why We Can't Wait," a compilation of his letters from the Birmingham jail.

At the end of the day, Obama is trying to speak to the core of America that says we can overcome all the barriers that exist between us if we simply are willing to trust in one another.

Now he takes his campaign to New Hampshire, another predominantly white state, where there are a ton of independents who could vault him to the top of the field. Will these New Englanders buy the hope of Obama and send him to South Carolina with another victory? Will African-Americans who fear whites won't vote for Obama now see his Iowa win as validation that those fears are unfounded?

Simply put, will America be willing to walk away from what some say is a sure thing of a Clinton in the White House and embrace a man who says we can do all things if we just believe enough in ourselves?

It all might sound like New Age mumbo jumbo. But the more Obama speaks and the more goose bumps that are raised, the more he makes the eight years Bill Clinton spent in the White House seem like ancient history and an Obama White House as the dawn of a new day for America.


Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian communications at Louisiana Baptist University, and he is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." You can read more of his columns at

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Barack ObamaHillary ClintonU.S. Presidential ElectionMartin Luther King Jr.

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