Obama: take a tip from Reagan


So says Steven Stark:

One odd thing is already clear about the fall campaign: in it, one of the two major candidates, John McCain, is going to play only a minor role.

Sure, he’ll occasionally get the spotlight, and there are things he can do to improve his chances marginally. But in the end, this election is about Barack Obama. The country wants a significant change in direction and Obama and the Democrats are the only ones who can credibly promise to deliver it. Thus, the results in November are going to come down to one question: can a significant portion of the electorate abide Barack Obama as its next president?

Right now, it’s an open question. And for Obama to get the answer he wants, he’s going to have to be another Ronald Reagan or another Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

There is always a threshold over which nominees must pass when the electorate decides whether a candidate can be trusted with the most powerful job in the world. For some, like General Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, doing so is a cakewalk. For upstarts and more ideological purists, it’s harder. Obama, of course, is the upstart of upstarts.

The good news for Obama is that most nominees do, in fact, successfully make the transition, especially when there is an overriding desire for change. John F. Kennedy in 1960, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Reagan in 1980, and Bill Clinton in 1992 all faced an initially skeptical electorate and, through favorable debate performances and constant exposure in the general-election campaign, gradually reassured the public that it had less to fear from the unknown than from the known.

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