Senators John McCain and Barack Obama share precious little in common aside from their mutual status as presidential frontrunners. Their policy, biographical and demographic differences are too numerous to list. Their worldviews clash. McCain has already clinched the GOP nomination, while Obama will likely win his party's popular and pledged delegate votes—even if a backroom deal robs him of the nomination. If McCain and Obama do indeed face one another in the general election, each candidate will have charted a course so remarkably dissimilar to the other's that they might as well have been campaigning on different planets. If, as some have suggested, Barack Obama's raucous rallies are reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen concerts, then John McCain's victory strategy resembles a series of coffee shop acoustic performances by a talented yet unglamorous musician.
Obama's strongest asset is his uncanny ability to sweep voters off of their feet with soaring, inspirational rhetoric. Few political candidates have the capacity to consistently raise goosebumps, cause swooning supporters to faint at rallies, and even elicit enthusiastic applause for feats such as nose-blowing. The rock concert analogy seems to fit: His campaign stops feature thousands of screaming fans and well-orchestrated performances culminating in hope-filled crescendos. The resulting images are a public relations dream—A young, attractive candidate literally surrounded by young, adoring supporters. How often do you see Barack Obama delivering a speech without hundreds of smiling faces as a backdrop? Almost never, and this is no accident; Obama's is a made-for-TV campaign and his advisors know it. They have wisely allowed their candidate to build a tidal wave of momentum through inspirational speeches, while downplaying policy details and the value of experience. The Democratic base is desperate for change, and Obama captured this sentiment early on in the campaign. Even if he's ill equipped to produce the change he promises, the fact that that he's been able to effectively identify and articulate the frustrations within his party has been a crucial advantage for him.