Make no mistake. If Barack is the nominee, he will be a formidable opponent. Not because of his policies -- if anything, they are his weak point. But he comes across as good humored, reasonable, likable. He is able to express pretty left wing ideas in ways that go far in making them sound sensible.
Some on the FNS panel pointed out, correctly, that a lot of Barack's answers had been light on substance. The problem is that, while that may matter to the inside the beltway crowd who care about the nuances of public policy, the great majority of those who will be voting in November will make their decisions based primarily on their sense of who the candidate is as a person -- and whether they like and trust him to deal with all the public policy they're too busy (or too bored with) to pay attention to.
In a Townhall column I wrote last year praising some of Barack's genuinely good qualities, I noted:
[U]nlike many of his left-wing compatriots, he treated his ideological adversaries with respect on a personal level. Indeed, he always offered the small conservative contingent on the Review a hearing, even though his decision-making consistently showed that he hadn’t ultimately been influenced by their arguments.
The challenge for Republicans will be finding a way to make sure that the American people look past the "willingness to listen" (i.e. Barack's genuinely likable demeanor) and understand that he subscribes to the kind of doctrinaire left-wing liberalism that guarantees that, after the "listening" is over, the decisions will be uniformly left-wing.
Barack is beatable. But anyone on the right who's giddy about the GOP's electoral prospects (after the Wright and "bitter" debacles) should rethink any notion that it's going to be easy.