This report sets out the main problem for Barack Obama: “Obama’s problem, as we have previously noted, is not that he flubs his set pieces, but that even though he delivers them perfectly, they give him no traction with Middle America.” And perhaps Hillary Clinton made the problem more acute:
In any case, the rapturous applause Hillary commanded underlined another troubling fact for Obama: The loyalty of the Clinton supporters at Denver is the nearest thing to a real news story coming out of any party convention for quite a while. That very loyalty continues to throw a shadow over whether Hillary’s supporters will flood the voting booths and pull the lever for Obama. Had Obama chosen another prominent woman Democrat as his running mate, such as Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius or Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, that issue might have gone away. But instead, the Candidate of Change picked a 36-year Senate veteran, venerable old sexagenarian Biden. That didn’t signal change, it guaranteed gerontocracy. And it was a slap in the face for Hillary’s supporters, especially the legions of Democratic feminists, as well. Finally, Hillary’s alleged responsibility for unifying the Democratic Party begs a far more important question: Why did she have to do it when it was Obama’s job? The nominee should have been able to do it in his sleep by the simple fact that he was the party’s choice. Yet without Hillary, Obama wasn’t able to even close that basic deal. At this convention, Hillary has overshadowed him the way Ted Kennedy overshadowed Carter in 1980 and the Rev. Jesse Jackson overshadowed the doomed Walter Mondale in 1984. To close that deal, Obama still needs to spell out plausible, attractive policies on the key areas of energy and balancing the budget in far more convincing detail than he has ever done so far. Where’s the beef?
Put simply, it does not seem that the assumption is correct that just any Democrat can beat John McCain. On Thursday, Obama needs not to uplift or to inspire but to explain why he is this Democrat and to overcome doubts that he is some dreamy egomaniac (the set is becoming a disaster, by the way). He needs to make his own case as to why he has earned the mantle of his party and the trust of his fellow citizens. When a record is as thin as his, those things don’t come automatically by virtue of winning the delegate count.
It is a tall order and he may pull it off yet. But the setting suggests he doesn’t appreciate the task at hand.