Obama's N.H. visit brings little criticism, much love

Monday, February 12th 2007, 8:08 pm
By: News On 6

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) _ Sen. Barack Obama's first trip to New Hampshire as an official Democratic presidential candidate came Monday with packed audiences, enthusiastic crowds _ and scant scrutiny.

Obama, who entered the race on Saturday in his home state of Illinois, came to New Hampshire on the heels of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. She faced criticism last weekend for not saying her vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq was a mistake.

Obama, by contrast, faced little of that skepticism. Even his sharpest questioners began by offering praise and support.

``He hasn't gotten into specifics, but that'll come,'' state Rep. Jeffrey Fontas said after a Nashua house party with 60 activists. ``It's early, so we'll see more and more.''

That house party in Nashua brought questions about:

_An Equal Pay Act. Obama helped a state measure during his time in Illinois but didn't commit to a national version.

_Childcare. Obama said it was a problem; he didn't offer specifics.

_The USA Patriot Act. Obama is against parts of it but didn't offer an alternative.

Even while the first-term senator from Illinois didn't have specific solutions, voters in this first-in-the-nation primary state gave him a pass.

``He takes time, he answers fully,'' said state Rep. Melanie Levesque. ``I think we need people who can bring people together. He can do that. We're going to have a tough decision to make.''

Obama called for a national solution to health care but stopped short of endorsing or rejecting proposals for mandatory insurance. He said more young people should consider teaching but stopped short of specific incentives.

Later Monday, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, Obama discussed Iraq. ``Unless we bring that war to a close, we cannot deal with all those other problems I just mentioned,'' he said. ``Not only has it resulted in the tragic loss in our brave soldiers, but it means we're spending $400 billion rebuilding Iraq with money that could have been used here.''

Obama did outline an energy plan _ a reduction in emissions, cap-and-trade plans for polluting industries, and development of biofuels including ethanol. He also repeated his stance on gay marriage _ that civil unions are fine, but marriage is a religious bond.

``I believe that every American has basic rights that have to be respected,'' said Obama, who noted that his parents perhaps broke the law when they entered into a biracial marriage in the 1960s.

A member of the university audience asked about his appeal to social conservatives. Obama said one of the best lessons he learned in politics was that he couldn't make 100 percent of voters happy. He then noted his friendship with the Rev. Rick Warren, who leads one of the nation's largest megachurches.