According to today’s Concord Monitor, when Sen. Barack Obama takes to the stage in Manchester on Sunday afternoon, “he will look out at sell-out crowd of more than 1,500. Audience members will have traveled from 13 different states, including South Carolina and Virginia. Of the 150 journalists covering the event, a handful will be from as far away as Japan and Denmark.”

Not since the Democrats took over both the White House and the New Hampshire governor’s office in 1993 has there been this much excitement among local Democrats. Back then the “rock stars” in the limelight were Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and the new governor, Jeanne Shaheen.

Ironically, there was an event similar to the one Obama has commandeered just a few months after the Clintons moved into the White House. It took place in the same venue in Manchester, NH. I was there as a reporter for the Hillary Clinton Quarterly to hear what our new First Lady had to say. It was hard not to get caught up in the giddy mood of a bunch of people who acted as if they had been quarantined in a granite bunker for about a decade and had just been let out and were dazed by the sudden rush of fresh air.

There’s that same mood about Obama’s visit. The Democrats here in New Hampshire are giddy once again. But there’s a caution. While the consensus is that Obama has rock star quality, he’s still a warm up act for The Real Thing, that “thing,” of course, being Hillary Clinton.

In an odd way, Obama’s sudden presence on the stage serves Hillary’s purpose. The last thing she needs is a coronation at the Democratic Convention in 2008. Enough people already believe she gets to be called Senator Clinton only because the married a man who eventually was called President Clinton.

Enroute to the nomination, blood must be spilt. Not enough to really do much damage, but enough to make people believe she earned the right to be the nominee — and has a few scars to prove it.

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