— From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
CHICAGO -- Obama is clearly much more comfortable in this setting --
smaller, more intimate rooms instead of large halls. He jokes to
connect with people; he seems very comfortable in his own skin as
opposed to the stage. He's a rallier.
When Obama walked in the audience broke into a rousing rendition of
"Happy Birthday." He's 46. He smiled widely and jokingly said, "Is
there a cake in the back?"
Then he got serious and hit on the lobbying issue.
"We had some interesting exchanges to say the least," Obama said. "We have to completely change how we do business."
He added, "Most elected officials have an eye towards what's going to get them elected. ... Duke Cunninghams are relatively rare in Washington."
But he went on to say that lobbying is a problem, because "We give our power away all the time." And he said "cranky" (Obama's word) Gravel was right when he said every politician "walks in the mud."
"Look, any one of them will be better than George Bush," Obama said of the other Democratic candidates. Certainly, he wasn't going to leave it at that and added, "But you have to ask, who will really represent change?"