The Gazette

John Parisella is knocking on doors in New Hampshire to help Barack Obama win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency.

"Look, they don't need me," Parisella admitted in a telephone interview yesterday from Elm St. in Manchester, N.H.

"I've been a political operative for many years," said Parisella, who heads Montreal's BCP advertising agency and is a part-time adviser to Premier Jean Charest. Parisella, who also teaches at Concordia University, was Robert Bourassa's chief of staff when Bourassa was premier.

"I know how to count the numbers," he said. "I know how to look at an organization.

"This organization in the field is the most impressive I have seen in the three primaries I've done here and I would say the most impressive that I've seen.

Hawaii-born Obama, riding a wave after his convincing win in the Iowa caucuses last week, had a 10-percentage-point lead yesterday in a CNN poll over Hillary Clinton, considered the favourite before Iowa.

"I go to doors that have been seen maybe twice, three times," Parisella said.

"I've got three signs for Obama on my jacket and people walk by me and they give me the thumbs-up with a smile. I haven't had it that good in a long time, I swear to God."

In previous primary campaigns, Parisella, who as a Canadian is not eligible to vote in U.S. elections, was an observer. This time he is a campaign soldier because he has followed the career of the Illinois senator, recalling his "extraordinary" speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.

Parisella said he did not think Obama would run this time. But when the rookie senator announced almost a year ago his presidential run, Parisella decided to campaign for him.

Before the Iowa campaign, Obama was attracting interest, but Clinton still appeared to be the serious contender, he noted.

Now, Obama is on a roll and he will be hard to stop if he beats Clinton by more than 10 percentage points today, New Hampshire's primary day. As the only African-American candidate, winning two overwhelmingly white states would give him momentum, Parisella said.

The message Obama offers on Iraq, health care and the economy is not very different from what Clinton and fellow presidential candidates John Edwards and Bill Richardson say.

"It's the way he says it," Parisella said. "He represents hope and he represents a different way of doing things and somehow he is believable."

Parisella describes Clinton as a "transactional" politician, used to making deals. Obama is a "transformational candidate," with the potential to change the way things are done in the United States, he said.

"The last one was Bobby Kennedy," he said, recalling the younger brother of president John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated nearly 40 years ago after he won the Democratic California primary.

"Its like being in love," Parisella said. "You stop breathing when you see him."

Parisella, who has a reputation as "spin doctor" among Quebec's political reporters, said David Axelrod, Obama's chief organizer, can spin.

"The guy is as informed as the candidate," Parisella said. "I have never seen a consultant master policy. He gave me a whole new definition of spin."