For or Against?

It’s finally over: the mother of all primaries has done her job reducing the field to two. But in reality there is only one candidate.  Barack Obama.  In November he will win or he will lose. 
John McCain is relevant only in so far as he is not Barack Obama.  The Senator from Arizona is incapable of energizing his party, brings no new people to the polls, and has a personality that is best kept under wraps.  And while his strong suite is experience, especially on military matters, it was gained almost entirely in Washington, a city that 80% of Americans now believe has miserably misled and mismanaged the nation.

Since McCain has become the presumptive nominee, I have spoken at more than two dozen Republican gatherings.  The sentiment everywhere can best be summarized in the words of one of the activists, “No matter who wins in November, we lose.” 

Some pundits are suggesting that because Obama is having difficulty attracting Hillary’s women and Reagan’s Democrats that John McCain could pick them up.  Not on the issues he can’t.  Hillary’s women are big government feminists who are not going to be particularly impressed with McCain’s commitment to conservatives to appoint Scalia-like judges. (It was a commitment, wasn’t it?)

As for the Reagan Democrats they tend to be socially conservative, economically nationalist, working class white voters.  McCain, on the other hand, continues to defend the very trade policies that have sent their jobs overseas.  And he further alienated these Americans with his open border immigration policies that depressed their wages with cheap labor and ignored their plight while catering to the 20 million living here illegally. 
So if he isn’t going to attract these voters with the issues and we know it won’t be with his charm, how does he do it?  He doesn’t.  Obama does.   

As a candidate Obama is bigger than life.  Die-hard liberals are euphoric over his nomination.  He is seen as the real thing — a man who believes what he says and says what he believes.  His candidacy has mobilized millions of new voters, held massive rallies, and raised money faster than Federal Reserve can print it. Obama is a gifted candidate who has that intangible quality most candidates only dream about — he moves voters — which gives his campaign enormous energy and excitement.  And he did this all the while fighting and eventually slaying the dragon lady herself! 

But can he unite the Democrats?  Hillary’s women are furious; they shared their candidate’s sense of entitlement and believe she was cheated out of the nomination.  Also within the party there is so much tension between the blacks and the Hispanics that there is a rising concern the Hispanics may not vote for Obama because of the color of his skin.  (Isn’t this called racism? Or is it only racism if Republicans are involved?)  Obama may pay the price for a party built on dividing America one special interest group at a time.  

But even before the uniting can begin Obama needs to regain his voice, reenergize his troops, and recapture the magic.  His campaign sputtered across the finish line after weeks of appearing struck in first gear.  There was no sign of the magic that was once his trademark. 

His greatest challenge, however, is dealing with his inexperience.  It makes him vulnerable on two fronts. First inexperience leads to mistakes — as in Obama’s remark before the Pennsylvania primary about bitter voters clinging to God and guns. 

Equally important, inexperienced candidates are generally not defined in the minds of the public.  This presents a valuable opportunity for opponents to do the defining.  (Remember the ACLU card-carrying liberal governor who released violent criminals onto the streets?)  Americans like new and fresh but if they develop serious reservations they will fall back to the default candidate rather than role the dice.     

Thanks to Hillary and the church that keeps on giving, Chicago’s Trinity United, reservations now abound. 

The most serious of these is the issue of Obama’s patriotism.  Middle America will not vote — nor should they — for anyone who is not deeply and unequivocally proud to be an American.  And the evidence needed to make this case against Obama keeps getting stronger — whether it is the video of his minister trashing this country; or the faces in the congregation clapping their approval; or the photo of Obama’s hand at his side during the national anthem; or his weak and foolish explanation for not wearing the flag pin.  Presented together it is not an unfair jump to conclude Obama has a problem with patriotism.  Then add that middle name.  Point-Set-Match. 

By November there will be two Obamas.  The articulate, attractive, dynamic candidate who inspired the nation with his message of hope and would be the first African American President and the anti-war, left-wing, inexperienced black candidate with a patriotism problem. 

It’s all up to Obama now — and a few 527s.