A Phenom With Flaws

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Below is an excerpt from Michael Gerson’s column in today’s Washington Post. Definitely worth reading the entire column. It gives a pretty objective look at his candidacy — its flaws and its high points — but also highlights the undeniable fact that Obama’s campaign has changed this country. I really enjoyed it. Hopefully you will too.

75,000 and one.

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Is Barack Obama a weak presidential candidate or a strong one? The answer is: yes.

…As a result of all these factors, Obama and McCain are running fairly even in respected polls such as Gallup, alternately trading the lead by a few points — at a time of massive anti-Republican discontent during which Obama should be cleaning McCain’s clock.

Yet I cannot get two figures out of my mind — 75,000 and one. There were 75,000 attendees at Obama’s Portland, Ore., rally on Sunday — a monumental political achievement, found at the confluence of organization and enthusiasm. Obama does not merely talk of a new kind of politics; his charisma, story and tone symbolize a shift in political eras. Obama voters believe they are changing politics forever — a claim that Al Gore or John Kerry could never credibly make. At its best, this desire to break the dominance of politics-as-usual motivated support for John Kennedy and the New Frontier. At its worst, it motivated support for professional wrestler Jesse Ventura to be governor of Minnesota — he won nearly half of young voters in a three-way election. In either case, it is hard to bet against excitement and idealism.

The “one” is Mark McKinnon — a media adviser to McCain, a friend and former colleague of mine, a Texas Democrat who strongly supported George W. Bush, and a man of great decency and integrity. Early last year, he gave me a copy of Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” and said he had informed the McCain team that he could not help lead a general election campaign against Obama. This week, McKinnon kept his word by resigning (though remaining a strong “friend and fan” of the McCain campaign).

It is a reminder of something that Republicans — even in the busy strife of a campaign — should not forget or underestimate. Obama is a serious, thoughtful, decent adult who will attract the sympathy of other serious, thoughtful, decent adults. He has evident flaws, but the inspiration he evokes is genuine. His policy views are conventionally liberal, but his story is not a scam. And, in some ways, his election would finally make sense of an American story that includes Antietam and Selma.

The enthusiasm of many Republicans and conservatives to defeat Hillary Clinton would have come unbidden. Against Obama, it will come harder.