There’s probably no one more jaded about politicians than the reporters who have to chase them around the country. They hear the same folksy stories a thousand times, told in exactly the same way, see the effort exerted at projecting genuineness in every handshake and smile. By now, the third or fourth primary, they know the shtick. So its nice to read in The State, Columbia, South Carolina’s hometown paper, an account of an Obama rally yesterday that looks at it all with fresh eyes, marveling at every little detail in the crowd and respecting the excitement of people experiencing his stump speech for the first time:

Sixteen-year-old Titus Middleton paid his barber $15 to shave a customized message in his hair: Obama 08. “It’s a fun thing,” he said.


“Even when the hair grows back, I’m going to get it redone.”

A little girl sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Then, at 6:26 p.m., the U.S. senator from Illinois entered the room wearing a dark suit and white shirt with a blue striped tie. Cell phones shot into the air, snapping photos.

It makes me grateful we still have local papers.

And speaking of getting a ground-level view of the race, look for my dispatches from South Carolina starting this Thursday.

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Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.