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Obama: Still long road ahead

/ Source: The Associated Press

Barack Obama welcomed his latest Democratic presidential primary triumph with a caution to exultant supporters Tuesday that they've all got "months and miles" to go and it won't be easy.

Obama addressed a boisterous rally in Houston on Tuesday night after defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton in Wisconsin for his ninth straight win. He looked for another boost later in the night in Hawaii, the state of his birth.

Obama almost literally stole the spotlight from his rival, beginning his speech before she had finished hers in Ohio. Cable networks cut away from her to the man now clearly the front-runner.

The Illinois senator seemed to echo Clinton in one respect when he agreed "it's going to take more than rousing speeches" and big rallies to bring change to Washington. Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain are both sounding the theme that Obama offers words instead of substance.

"As wonderful as this gathering is, as exciting as these enormous crowds and this enormous energy may be — what we're trying to do here is not easy," Obama said. "It is going to require something more. Because the problem that we face in America today is not the lack of good ideas. It's that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die."

And Obama said he's not naive.

"Hope is not blind optimism," he said. It's as if the cynics are saying "we need to season and stew him a little more and boil all the hope out of him."

The senator contended: "It is my central premise that the only way we will bring about real change in America is if we can bring new people into the process."

Mixed with the soaring "Yes we can" rhetoric was an appeal for Texans to take advantage of opportunities to vote in advance of the March 4 primary.

"I don't want you to wait until March 4," he said. "I want you to start voting tomorrow here in Texas."

The primaries in Texas and Ohio on March 4 offer a mother lode of 334 Democratic delegates and chance to break out of a nomination struggle that could drag on for months, perhaps even to the convention this summer in Denver.