With 68 percent of Americans believing George Bush has done a poor job, and 82 percent saying the country is on the wrong track, the election of 2008 will turn on one issue: Barack Obama.
If Sen. Obama can convince the people he is "one of us," and not some snooty radical liberal from Chicago's Hyde Park, who looks down upon white America as a fever swamp of racism and reaction, a la the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the senator will be the next president.
The election of 2008 thus mirrors the election of 1980.
Then, the country wanted Jimmy Carter gone. Americans had had enough of 21 percent interest rates, 13 percent inflation and 7 percent unemployment. They wanted the Iranian hostage crisis ended, violently if necessary. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, America wanted a leader who would not kiss Leonid Brezhnev on the cheek but reassert American power.
The issue then was Ronald Reagan. Portrayed as some Al Capp cartoon of a crazed right-winger and B-Grade Hollywood actor given to spouting Reader's Digest bromides, Reagan was regarded as ridiculous by much of the media and too big a risk by much of the nation.
In one debate with Carter, Reagan erased the misperceptions and turned a close race into a cakewalk. That is Barack's opportunity.
A savvy politician, he has measured correctly the hurdle he must surmount and is moving expeditiously to alter an image of him forged by his own past associations and policy positions. In three weeks, he has jettisoned his new politics in a stunning display of raw pragmatism.
A prime minister must be "a good butcher," H.H. Asquith told Winston Churchill on naming him First Lord of the Admiralty, "and there are several who need to be pole-axed now." Four years later, Asquith would pole-axe Churchill over the Dardanelles disaster.
Obama is not lacking in this capacity that Richard Nixon, too, felt was an indispensable attribute of a statesman.
Samantha Power was tossed off Barack's sledge after calling Hillary a "monster" and suggesting Barack's Iraq timetable was not set in concrete. Robert Malley was canned for having talked to Hamas, though that was his portfolio at a think tank for conflict resolution.
Barack pole-axed pastor Wright and, though he said he could no more repudiate his church than his family, shortly after the second time Wright went off, Barack severed all ties to Trinity United.