By Editor-in-chief
updated 1/17/2007 8:18:24 AM ET 2007-01-17T13:18:24

When it comes to sizing up presidential prospect Barack Obama, voters seem to default to the title of his best-selling autobiography: They have the “audacity of hope” – a cautious, nearly blind hope that he can change politics as they know it.

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The freshman Illinois senator announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee Tuesday, billing himself as a can-do uniter in an era of political polarization and paralysis. At, an issues-based community, voters discussed the hype surrounding the Democrat’s bid.

“I think it’s a sign of how hungry voters are for anything other than the current sorry state of politics,” said a HOTSOUP.comwriter who goes by the username “USONE.” “Obama's challenge will be to overcome the wedge-issue, divide-and-conquer strategy that the Republicans will inevitably employ. If this past election cycle is any indication the public is fed up with it, but complacency could set back in ….”

Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist who posted in the same“Loop,” said Obama’s rise is easy to explain. “He's a fresh face in a town with so many ‘has beens,’ and he understands how to connect with ordinary people,” she wrote.

A voter who goes by the username “DsyGrl206” agreed with Brazile. “I just think listening to him is inspiring,” the online writer said.  “He makes me feel like I can be a part of this – like I could be a part of the change that so many of us desperately want to see.”

But few voters know much about Obama, and some wonder whether he’s for real. “He certainly has the star quality that the pros look for, and I'm sure his ability to raise the money for a run wouldn't be a big problem,” wrote “denno.” “But I'm looking for the person who will raise the opposition to this administration right now, not when it looks safe to take a stand.”

Will the skepticism turn to criticism once Obama formally enters the race? Almost certainly – and the barbs will be fired by Democrats and Republicans alike. Can Obama survive? Nobody knows, though some have the audacity to wonder.

“I think Obama is smart enough and eloquent enough that his message will overcome the Republican fear mongering,” USONE wrote. “I hope so.”

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