Obama in North Carolina: Where am I and when is this?

Mayhill Fowler starts off her Huffington Post piece yesterday by scolding the national press for its disinterest in Barack Obama’s stump speeches, but may wind up regretting calling attention to them. Fowler, who also reported the “Crackerquiddick” comments in San Francisco, provides a ringside description of what Michael Goldfarb calls an Admiral Stockdale moment:

Just for the record, Senator Obama’s Hickory performance was much better than his Wilmington one. His speech was more grounded and detailed, in little things–adding “the price of a gallon of milk” to “the price of gas”–and in big–entwining his wife’s life story with his own in pleading his case for love of country. In short, Obama was more forceful and passionate. Confronting his displeasure with the Reverend Wright seems to have lit a fire under the Barack ass.

Did Senator Obama know to whom he was speaking? Likely not. That’s been his problem lately on the campaign trail–not knowing exactly where he was. He even made a joke about it in Hickory when he tried to recall where he had just met someone whose story he wanted to tell. “We were down in–where were we?” Quickly he came up with Winston-Salem, and everybody laughed. Monday in Wilmington, however, not only did he seem not to know Wilmington but the date and time, saying that it was “March” and “nine months to November.” The fact that his audiences are largely composed of die-hard fervent loyalists usually masks this underlying dis-connection. But it’s worth noting that Senator Clinton always knows exactly where she is and to whom she is speaking.

As I wrote earlier in regards to Obama’s appearance on Today, he seems to be running out of gas. Not knowing the exact city could be excusable in the grind of a presidential campaign, although it’s not exactly flattering, either. Not understanding what month it is — getting it almost two months off — and miscalculating the amount of time left for the general election looks more problematic. After all, the long campaign tells us in part whether a candidate can stand up to the demands of the office, and not knowing the place or the month of the present makes one look overwhelmed, at best.

And Obama’s the youngest candidate in the race. He’s the one who should be showing energy, enthusiasm, and presence. Instead, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have shown more of all these qualities, especially of late. If Obama can’t stand the demands of the road as well as the other two candidates, what does that say about his stamina if elected President?

It’s not the only way in which Obama seems outmatched. Hillary’s appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night shows a certain defiance and energy that contrasts sharply with Obama’s refusal to debate Hillary again. It makes her look like she’s itching for confrontation and debate, and if Obama’s too tired or timid to provide it, she’ll go outside the box to find it. It may be subtle, but the message is clear: Obama’s just not up to this.

Right now, Obama’s providing supporting evidence for the Hillary message. If he can’t get his head and his heart in the game, then Hillary could steal the nomination away from Obama in Denver.