With her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on the ropes after ten straight losses to Obama, Clinton went beyond her frequent complaint that the Illinois senator lacked the experience to be president. She depicted his candidacy as a "campaign about a campaign" while casting herself as a champion of the middle class.
"Others might be joining a movement. I'm joining you on the night shift, on the day shift," Clinton said to loud applause and cheers.
The former first lady congratulated Obama for his victories in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday and acknowledged he had inspired voters to dream again. But she said she was the candidate best suited to fulfill those dreams.
In portraying her rival as more rhetoric than action, Clinton displayed some eloquence of her own.
"We all carry dreams in our hearts, and we need to keep dreaming. Dreaming keeps us hopeful; it lifts our spirits; it sets our sights high," she said. "Without dreams we can't aspire to be great. But without action we cannot turn those dreams into reality."
With polls showing Obama making inroads among white working class voters that have long been Clinton's base, the New York senator sought to recapture those voters using more eloquent language than usual.
"I know who you are. You pour coffee in the corner restaurant. You fix people's hair. You ring out the cash register," Clinton said. "You stand on the wall late at night defending our nation so the rest of us can sleep. ... You are the parents on the front lines of daily life determined to achieve the American dream."
Her reference to standing on a wall recalled a speech by actor Jack Nicholson, playing a Marine colonel, in the 1992 movie "A Few Good Men." At one point, Nicholson's character tells a young lawyer played by Tom Cruise, "Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? ... You need me on that wall." Nicholson has endorsed Clinton.
Clinton was headed later to Texas, where she is banking on a strong showing in the state's March 4 primary to help save her struggling candidacy. She is also competing hard in Ohio, whose primary is the same day.