If nothing else, understand this: Rallies with Barack Obama are not revival meetings. There is no cadence or trope a la Jesse. No poetic exhortations like Martin’s at Tent City.

What Obama conjured for this child of TV was – Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy. (Or Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”)

Barack speechifies like a lawyer, not a preacher. He uses his hands, but grasps the mike firmly while he strides across the stage. He pivots on his heel to face the people seated behind him. He reasons with the audience.

He entered the 1st Mariner Arena at 5:20 p.m. last Monday, backed by a U2 song. Immediately he launched into a quote from Dr. King about “the fierce urgency of now.”

“There is such a thing as being too late… and the moment is upon us.”

He noted that we need to re-order priorities that build “new prisons but” accept “old schools.”

Obama invoked the greatness that was and the greater thing that could be.

“From ordinary people come extraordinary things,” he said.

Indeed, the packed and vocal audience was proof of that, filled with folks from Baltimore and from miles away, including a mother and son (friends of my sister) who had left northern Virginia at 7 a.m. Those early birds were rewarded with onstage seats.

Obama did not proclaim himself the messiah, nor did the audience anoint him so. He isn’t the savior. Salvation is us. Or we. Or you and me. (I mean “I,” Sister Basil SSND.)

“Change,” he said, the word by now a crowd mantra, “comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up.”

On Friday’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Paul Rieckhoff, of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the Obama campaign was “bigger than politics… it’s a social movement.”

Credit the Shrub and his cronies for some of that movement’s momentum.

“Whatever happens,” Obama said of the imminent elections, “the name of George Bush will not be on the ballot.”

Gotta ‘fess that I beat my hands red on that one.

“And the name of my cousin Dick Cheney,” he stopped in mid-sentence and cocked his head.

“You know, when you do this genealogy thing, you’re hoping it will be someone cool;” he let it hang for three beats.

“Cheney… that’s a let-down.”

He waited for the laughter and then charged on about Cheney’s absence from the ballot, no more “Scooter Libby” something.

Then he fired a whiff of grapeshot across the old ship Negative Campaign Ad’s bow.

“You’re not here because you want to be against something,” he told the crowd.

“Being… cynical is easy… You want to be for something.”

He talked about opening up the Congressional health plan to everyone. (So did Hillary.)

Making college “affordable to everyone.” (So did Hillary.)

Tuition credits for national service. (So did Hillary.)

“We’ll invest in you if you invest in America,” Obama paraphrased JFK.

He talked about economic “fairness …rewarding not just Wall Street but Main Street.”

Tax cuts for the middle class; no income tax for seniors with less than $50K income; mortgage credits.

Safety standards for toys; money for cities. (“If we can spend $9 billion a month in Iraq, we can spend some money in Baltimore.”)

A higher minimum wage. (“If you work in this city, you should not be poor.”)

Oil and its ills, climate change, green-collar job creation. Although he didn’t use the green-collar phrase as did Hillary, he said everything but.

In fact, most of what Obama said, Hillary said, too.

They differ very little on the issues. They both want to restore America’s world standing. They want to fund more veterans programs.

They want to end the war in Iraq.

Hillary claims her First Lady gig along with her Senate Foreign Relations Committee membership make her better prepared to be president. But weren’t she and her committee colleagues duped by Bush? That’s not the kind of experience that engages voters.

Obama wasn’t in the Senate in 2002, but he went on record opposing the vote to give the Shrub authority to use military force in Iraq.

He wants to: “end genocide in Darfur… close Gitmo [and] restore habeas corpus.”

“I will be a president who has taught the Constitution,” he said, “who believes in the Constitution and who will obey the Constitution of the United States of America.”

That was as close as it came to a revival – at least for me!

Obama pooh-poohed his critics.

“They say ‘He makes good speeches and nice proposals, but he hasn’t been in Washington long enough.’

“They want to season and stew and boil all the hope out of him and maybe in 20 years…” He left the words unspoken (some of the few he did that day).

He called those critics the “same old cast of characters.”

He can take it: “I’m skinny but I’m tough. I’m wiry. Don’t mess with me.”

(If you closed your eyes, you could almost see him as a neo-Sugar Ray Leonard, calves flashing in a ring dance.)

“Who they got? John McCain?”

Obama gave due respect to J Mac’s past and heroic service to country but now, “He is on the wrong side.

“We are the party of tomorrow; they are the party of yesterday.”

Then he conjured Lincoln’s embrace of opponents in his cabinet appointments.

“I want to attract some Republicans.”

He lowered his voice, as if confiding a secret. “They whisper to me ‘Barack, I’m a Republican and I support you.”

“And I say ‘Thank you… Why are we whispering?’”

Great guffaws and a burst of energy — from an audience that had spent most of its day waiting for just this.

Then he validated the buoyancy he’d conjured in the crowd.

“The Clintons say I’m peddling false hope; there’s the implication that I’m naïve, that hope means my head’s in the clouds.” That distinctive, kind-of-like-fine-wale-corduroy voice rose.

“Hope is not blind; it doesn’t mean there’s “ignorance of the barriers that stand between you and your dreams.” Barriers like the “politics of fear.” (Echo of Hillary.)

Then he touched on the youth corps of his supporters.

“There is a moment in the life of each generation, where, if it’s to make a difference, it must shed fear and doubt.

“We will remake the country block by block, precinct by precinct.

“This is our moment. This is our time. If you will stand by me” – the audience hadn’t sat down for at least 30 minutes – “we will win the nomination; we will win the White House.

“You and I together can change” the world.

The place went wild. I don’t remember what music was playing. Obama shook hands briefly, then was spirited away.

Outside the arena I hailed a cab and chatted up the driver as always. He was from Somalia.

“You’re lucky to be here,” I said. He agreed and asked where I was coming from. I told him about Obama and he was astonished that the presidential candidate had been in his adopted city that day.

He — who had been in America for seven years, had his green card and was scheduled for his naturalization exam 20 Feb. — he thanked me for coming to the city to see Obama.

This man had been through more than most us ever will. He didn’t have any Bush-Clinton subtext. He saw a black man on TV speak about leading America. He heard a message of the future happening now.

And that’s the difference between Hillary and Barack. Bill can’t help now; he’s only a hindrance, a remembrance of things past. I keep hearing them talk about the bridge to the future. Didn’t we cross that bridge 16 years ago? Aren’t we in the future yet?

Don’t we deserve, nay demand, someone who embodies all that is yet to be accomplished?

This country has always been about potential energy. That’s what brought the Founders here. That’s what made the cab driver leave Somalia for the great unknown – the potential, what could be.

That’s what Barack Obama is. That‘s what he makes us believe we are.

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