LITTLETON, N.H. – The nation needs a president who is more a stranger than an insider when it comes to the capital's way of doing business, Barack Obama said Monday, portraying his relatively modest experience in Washington as an asset.
"We don't need somebody who can play the game better," the Illinois senator told about 600 people in a high school gym in this northern New Hampshire town. "We need somebody to put an end to the game plan."
Obama seemed to be directing his comments at New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who often suggests that her husband's administration gave her valuable experience in addition to her time in the Senate. Clinton, also campaigning in New Hampshire Monday, leads in polls of likely Democratic voters, but Obama is making a push in the first-primary state. TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey will campaign with him here and in Iowa next month.
Some presidential contenders "have been in Washington too long," said Obama, who has been in the Senate three years. He said his time as a community worker in Chicago, law professor and Illinois legislator gave him vital experiences without making him dependent on lobbyists and special interests.
As for Washington experience, he said, "a long resume doesn't mean good judgment." He cited Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying "they led us into the worst foreign policy disaster in a generation," meaning the Iraq war.
Obama, who was warmly received by the pro-Democratic audience, said the federal government should do more to help people pay for college, buy health insurance and avoid mortgages that prove hard to pay off. Two million Americans risk losing their homes, he said, "because many of them were offered deceptive loans."
"Where was our government to make sure consumers weren't getting gouged in the financial markets?" he said.
When Obama opened the floor to questions, a middle-aged man seemed to warn him against sharpening his criticisms of his rivals. "Be a gentleman," the man said, as some applauded. "Don't get nasty."
When Obama smiled and said, "How am I doing so far?" the man gave him a thumbs-up.
Later, talking with TV reporters, Obama was asked if Winfrey is a better campaign surrogate than Bill Clinton.
"Bill Clinton is a great surrogate for Hillary," Obama said. "And so you know if he wanted to endorse me, I'd take it. I don't think he will."