For a generation too young to remember any other president but this one, he is the anti-Bush: young, vibrant, idealistic, intelligent and – there is no getting around it – undeniably hip.
For those whose teenage years were punctuated by 9/11, the Iraq war, and the Democrats’ near-miss in the 2004 elections, just the idea of Barack Obama is irresistible.
On the sprawling campus of the University of Missouri, located in a key battleground state in Tuesday’s national primary, there is an even more compelling reason to be for Obama. Supporting Hillary Clinton means social death.
"Having a hip candidate like him makes it difficult to support someone else," admits Mark Buhrmester, 21, who until recently headed the Democratic club on campus. "Young people talk about politics a lot. Barack Obama is in style so if you don’t support Barack Obama, it’s like you are not in style."
Such a strong, almost cult-like following could prove a crucial advantage for Obama heading into Tuesday’s titanic contest in an election year which has seen more young people voting than ever before.
A young generation of Democratic activists argues their concerns are different than those of their elders. They claim to have grown up in an age when race and gender no longer mattered, and they are unmoved by the great culture wars over abortion and gay marriage.
Their issues are the war in Iraq, global warming, and the cost of health care. But their real concerns run even broader, towards a wholesale rejection of the coarsening of America’s political climate.
"We’ve grown up in a time where there has been extraordinary bitterness in Washington. We have a president who doesn’t care about the problems that we face and a Congress that is in support of that uncompassionate agenda," said Buhrmester.
"When you come of age in the age of George W Bush, it makes it very easy to be cynical – and very easy to be a Democrat."