Sen. Barack Obama has generated considerable attention because of how his public appearances draw such large, enthusiastic crowds. Talented in so many ways, his newness and freshness on the political scene have put the presidential hopes of Sen. Hillary Clinton in serious jeopardy.
Although Clinton once was considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination, Obama now is a darling with many people of both parties. It's been said that Clinton is an overexposed "old school" candidate who has offered a laundry list of goals while Obama has concentrated on creating an atmosphere of hope and optimism about the future, the way Republican Ronald Reagan did on his path to the White House.
Another political figure who often is overlooked for the way he grabbed the public's emotions is the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, like Clinton a senator from New York when he was seeking his party's nomination.
To get a better notion of just how Sen. Kennedy could draw and excite a crowd, we have only to recall his receptions during three stops in Kansas around this time in 1968.
First, Kennedy appeared in Manhattan to present the Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. He drew an overflow crowd of more than 15,000, then headed for an appearance in KU's Allen Fieldhouse. Many were astounded that the audience here, in a then-Republican stronghold, totaled well over 19,000. Then a brief visit to what was then Haskell Indian Junior College was greeted with comparative warmth.
Not only did people gather to hear and cheer for Kennedy, but when he attempted to move among those in the KU fieldhouse throng, he surrendered cuff links and buttons from his sportcoat in his foray through the mobs.
It was an event that most veteran political observers in our state had never seen equaled, let alone topped. Tragically in that June 40 years ago, the senator like his brother, President John Kennedy, was the victim of an assassin's bullet, following a rally celebrating his victory in the California primary.
Barack Obama has much of the same crowd appeal that Bobby Kennedy had. Clinton could have her long-term dreams of a presidential triumph negated despite her experience and her abilities.
Many times there is no particular rhyme or reason to a political personality's grasp of crowd and public sentiment and it often comes down to "you either have it or you don't."
Bobby Kennedy clearly had it - and Barack Obama seems possessed with the same type of charisma.