MANCHESTER, N.H. — Senator Obama will look to the 8,500 New Hampshire residents who listened, clapped, hooted, and hollered as he and Oprah Winfrey exhorted them at the Verizon Arena here last night to serve as troopers in his push to the January 8 primary.
While the crowd inside was a far cry from the 30,000 who saw the Illinois senator and the talk show star in South Carolina, it represented a significant percentage of New Hampshire's roughly 179,000 registered Democrats.
The candidate's wife, Michelle Obama, introduced Ms. Winfrey, who seemed to take the form of a shimmering ball of excitement as she took the stage. "I feel blessed to be part of the Obama movement," she said after a voice from the crowd shouted: "We love you, Oprah."
Her talk in New Hampshire, a state with few black voters, invoked an appeal for American unity along with noting Mr. Obama's special status as an African-American presidential candidate. "He's not afraid to talk about what race means in this country … and bring us all together," she said.
She praised Mr. Obama for being an early opponent of the Iraq war and for having the potential to end what she called America's "estrangement from the rest of the world."
She also referenced a 1971 novel by Ernest Gaines that was made into a film, "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," whose elderly protagonist asks characters if they are the "one" to bring reconciliation to America.
"Thirty years later, I have the answer to Miss Pittman's question. Is he the one?" she asked the crowd of Mr. Obama. The crowd roared in approval. She also spoke in the language of her daily television program, saying Mr. Obama possessed "compassionate conviction" and that she saw him as "an evolved leader … we're all here to evolve as human beings."
Mr. Obama followed Ms. Winfrey, coolly coming on stage to U2's "City of Blinding Lights." Like his fellow Chicagoan, Mr. Obama paid homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and later ratcheted up his energy and rhetoric in the style of a preacher. "We've got to stand up for America, stand up for equality, stand up for justice, stand up for our children. That's why I'm running for president," he said, his voice turning guttural and almost indecipherable.
The crowd, roughly 70% female and more racially diverse than is common in the Granite State, received Mr. Obama warmly.
Many attendees, however, were more interested in seeing the candidate than his celebrity-backer.
"I'm here for Obama," Coralia Keye of Concord said. "I've been with Obama since Day One."
"I like Oprah, but she's not going to make my decision for me," Brenda Sens of Gilmanton said. Ms. Sens said she had not yet decided on a candidate and that the speech marked her third time seeing the candidate.
Other than Ms. Winfrey deriding "experience" without "judgment," discussion of Mr. Obama's primary opponents, including Senator Clinton, was largely absent. Mr. Obama drew intense applause over his criticism of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
A Democratic strategist, Mary Anne Marsh, said the event would help launch Mr. Obama's field efforts in the state and help convince undecided voters to examine his candidacy. "The benefit of getting Oprah Winfrey here tonight is getting undecided voters to take a second look at Barack Obama," she said.
Senator Clinton also campaigned in Iowa over the weekend with her mother and daughter.