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The morning rush

From NBC's Lee Cowan
In the wee hours of the morning -- around 4 a.m. for those wondering how to define "wee" -- a caffeine-deprived television crew transformed a hotel conference room into studio that was seen by millions.

It is a morning ritual practiced a lot recently in the days before a primary or caucus.

This morning was Barack Obama's turn for the "round robin" -- a head-spinning back-to-back series of appearances on Good Morning America, the Today Show, The Early Show and CNBC.

It was remarkable only for this: the senator's demeanor when he walked in. After a long day and a short night, he appeared crisp as ever -- newspapers in hand. He only skimmed the stories about himself -- instead he seemed to focus more on the business pages -- and the international sections.

Aides buzzed around him, a microphone was clipped to his lapel and earpiece to his shirt collar. A make-up person dusted powder across his eyes and nose -- and yet his focus was never broken. He read the paper as if he had all the time in the world -- not that the world was about to spend its' time watching him.

His quiet confidence seemed to suggest he knew what was coming, and he knew how he was going to answer. Questions about Bill Clinton's criticisms were the order of the day. Some asked about his dealings with a Chicago "slum lord" -- Hillary Clinton's words from the debate. There was nothing new in his answers. It's familiar ground for the senator of late.

Despite the cool exterior, Obama is a candidate who seems to tolerate the media -- politely usually -- but little more. He reacts to the press as if he has to, not as though he wants to -- and more often than not, seems to see the cameras and notepads as barriers to voters, not conduits. Perhaps we're not asking the right questions. Certainly there are those he wishes we wouldn't ask. But the exchange seems something he would rather avoid -- not out of fear -- but it seems, out of boredom.
 
When it was all over. He left as politely as he came in, as if it were a doctor's visit. He thanked us all, he shook hands, smiled and went to board a bus to an event that he truly relishes -- campaigning in front of crowds -- not a lone TV camera in a hotel conference room in the wee hours of the morning.