Wednesday, February 13, 2008

President Obama

The results from the Virginia primary make clear that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. The turnout in Virginia was a record for a primary. Barack's vote total doubled Hillary's and far exceeded the combined total for McCain and Huckabee.

The conclusion that Obama, who is gaining strength with every primary, would win Virginia in the general election seems incontestable. And though Virginia will not be the only state to swing to the Democrats in November, it will be enough.

The notion that he is not tough enough or experienced enough to survive an extended primary season and defeat McCain in November is not credible, either. He is a durable and smart campaigner and his lead advisor, David Axelrod, has proven over and over that he has few peers as a campaign strategist. Barack has other enormous strengths on his team, too, not least of which is Michelle Obama.

The real policy differences between Hillary and Barack are slight, and the idea that the Democrats will somehow melt into disarray during or after a hardfought primary season is easy to allege, but much harder to prove. As time goes on, and as Virginia has already demonstrated, most Clinton voters won't find it very difficult to become Obama supporters.

And regular Democrats will be joined by more young voters, more independents and more disaffected non-voters as Obama-for-President comes to look more like a sweeping movement for change than an election campaign. It is hard to imagine a president who would be more open to grassroots input than Barack is likely to be. Previously committed super-delegates are going to spend more time thinking about how to grab on to Obama's coattails than they will spend considering the consequences of reneging on an earlier pledge to support Clinton.

Obama may not win as many states as Lyndon Johnson did in his 1964 trouncing of Barry Goldwater, but he may defeat McCain almost as decisively. One of the larger challenges for Barack will be to avoid the appearance of planning the details of his administration too soon. But frankly nothing is more appealing, at this point, than thinking about how universal health care, demilitarization and green jobs will develop under President Obama.

Jeff Epton

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