Questions about Obama’s Chances Begin

David Gergen, of all people, notes one of the outcomes from Saddleback which have to have the Obama campaign concerned:

Heading into the candidates’ appearances on Saturday night at Saddleback Church, the conventional wisdom in politics was Barack Obama should have a clear upper hand in any joint appearance with John McCain — one the young, eloquent, cool, charismatic dude who can charm birds from the trees, the other the meandering, sometimes bumbling, old fellow who can barely distinguish Sunnis from Shiias.

Well, kiss that myth goodbye.

Now some will pass it off to a rusty Obama. But that had nothing to do with McCain’s performance which proved, as Gergen points out, he “is no old fuddy-duddy who isn’t sure where he is going”.

Obama in front of a teleprompter delivering a practiced speech is, indeed awesome. Obama freelancing is less impressive. And I believe that the Obama campaign has realized that, leading to their decision to nix townhall meetings with McCain (at which, btw, McCain excels).

Observing this as an obviously interested observer, it seems to me that McCain is picking up steam while Obama seems to be losing it. That seems to be Gergen’s conclusion as well.

So how does Obama regain the mojo? Here are Gergen’s thoughts:

* Obama must select a running mate who gives a lift to his campaign and can also hammer home a message in the convention and in the vice presidential debate this fall. He definitely needs a fighter by his side. (For my money, Hillary Clinton looks better and better; if not her, Joe Biden is probably the best fighter — perhaps Evan Bayh, or a surprise choice.)

* The Democratic convention in Denver has to be a roaring success, not only uniting the party but sending a much clearer, crisper message about why 4 more years will be 4 more years of tears.

* Obama himself must find his voice again, not only in his acceptance address but in the debates. He needs to bring passion as well as inspiration, a clear sense of what the choice is, and a compelling sense of why he is strong enough as well as wise enough to lead the country through tough times.

A) the VP isn’t going to be enough to elect Obama, this is a referendum on Obama B) I think the Democratic convention has the possibility of being a disaster and C) passion and inspiration don’t provide answers to specific questions, and Obama hasn’t provided many of those to this point – he’ll be asked for them again and again in the debates.

One last passing thought – the polls are close and I think the reason can be found in the Democratic primary. Obama got his biggest wins with the most delegates in primaries which were caucuses. They are normally driven by activists. I have begun to wonder if Obama really represents the electoral power his campaign tries to portray.

[Crossposted on QandO]

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