'Why Obama Can't Win' - Castellanos
First, Castellano wrestles with the question of the moment; why isn't Obama farther ahead?
To earn the Democratic nomination, as Fred Thompson points out, Obama ran as George McGovern without the experience, a left-of-center politician who would meet unconditionally with Iran, pull us precipitously out of Iraq, prohibit new drilling for oil, and grow big government in Washington by all but a trillion dollars. In his general election TV ad debut, however, Obama pirouetted like Baryshnikov. With a commercial Mike Huckabee could have run in a Republican primary, Obama now emphasizes his commitment to strong families and heartland values, "Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses." In this yet unwritten chapter of his next autobiography, Obama tells us he is the candidate of "welfare to work" who supports our troops and "cut taxes for working families." The shift in his political personae has been startling. Obama has moved right so far and so fast, he could end up McCain's Vice-Presidential pick.
General-election Obama now billboards his doubts about affirmative action. He has embraced the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption saying, "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon...everything." He tells his party "Democrats are not for a bigger government." Oil drilling is a consideration. His FISA vote and abandonment of public campaign finance introduce us to an Obama of recent invention. And as he abandons his old identity for the new, breeding disenchantment among his formerly passionate left-of-center supporters and, equally, doubts among the center he courts, he risks becoming nothing at all, a candidate who is everything and nothing in the same moment.
In past campaigns, there have been extremely artful pivots to the center among candidates of both parties. Obama's turn to the right was an unmitigated disaster. Placing himself above other politicians meant that Obama - to maintain his "authenticity" - needed to stick to his leftist principles and positions in order not to ruin his brand.
Alas, Obama could never come close to winning running on the same platform he ran on in the primaries. McGovern tried it and got slaughtered. Hence, the wild lurch to the center that confused even his most rabid acolytes, angered the left, and put off the great center of American politics who recent polls have shown moving toward McCain.
And what of McCain? The contrast is startling:
In the defining moment of his life, McCain was willing to give everything for one thing, and that one thing was his country. Contrast that with Obama, who has told America that he is "a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world." Obama is the talented salesman who seduced one state after another saying "Iowa, this is our moment," "Virginia, this is our moment," "Texas, this is our moment," and then tells Europe, "people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment." How many times can Barack Obama sell the same moment to everyone, before he becomes Mel Brooks in "The Producers"? Who is Barack Obama? His campaign, as it reupholsters him before our eyes, says we can never know -- perhaps because Barack Obama does not know himself.
Perhaps many of us have underestimated the sheer power of McCain's life story, it's hold on the nation and effect on the voters. Certainly, as Castellano points out, the contrast with Obama is striking in that regard. McCain's trial by fire says something very profound, very deep about the man that is resonating with voters as they compare the two candidates. With a spectacular lack of success, the left (not the Obama campaign) has tried to paint McCain as a panderer, a flip flopper, and a man without character or conscience.
On the other hand, McCain's attacks against Obama are biting, caustic, sarcastic, and ringing true which is why he is staying close to Obama and why, in the end, all the re-invention Obama can muster isn't going to matter:
The major differernce between them is in the core of the two candidates; one, rock solid while the other is molten - still forming under pressure and not yet completed.
John McCain is a complete and well-formed man. Barack Obama is completing himself. As he moves to fit what he perceives to be a right-of-center country, he distances himself from the simple and authentic passion of a young candidate who once pledged "Change We Can Believe In."
McCain could still lose badly. People are not paying much attention to the race at this point and it very well may be that when the final determination is made by the voter, they will put aside any concerns about Obama and elect him president. The GOP brand has been damaged so badly and generated so much disgust and anger that in the end, it may be too much for McCain - despite his heroic life story and the heroic effort he is making in the campaign - to overcome.
But Obama will have hurdles to overcome as well. And whether he can define himself sufficiently in the voter's minds will go a long way toward determining his fate.