Alex Massie

It has to be Obama, right?

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I don't trust the St Barack stuff either, but there's no point in doubting that Obama has something his rivals don't. There's a clarity that comes to the Democratic race when one views it from a distance (in this instance, the best part of 4,000 miles). Yes Obama is inexperienced, yes a good deal of the talk about how he would unite the country is wishful thinking, yes there are times when he seems a little too keen to bathe in the symbolism of his campaign and yes, god knows how he would actually do as President. But all of these  concerns - perfectly legitimate though they may be - seem dwarfed by a single, simple truth: for the first time in American history there is the prospect of voting for a black candidate who actually has a reasonable chance to win. And we're talking about his healthcare plan? Wood and trees, folk.

One can't - and shouldn't - expect the Clinton and Edwards campaigns to agree with this, but given the circumstances, I'd be tempted to say that the burden of proof lies with them, not Obama. Once Obama demonstrates - as I think he has - that he wouldn't be a vastly worse or more incompetent president than his rivals then, all else being equal, I should have thought that the default position - for Democrats! - ought to be to vote for Obama unless Clinton or Edwards can persuade one otherwise.

But this has not happened. Instead it is Clinton, as the long-time presumed front-runner and establishment candidate, who (mystifyingly) is supposed to enjoy your support as part of your fealty to your party and it's Obama who must persuade you otherwise.

I can understand the enthusiasm for Hillary if you think she'd be a 10/10 president and Obama just a 6/10 commander-in-chief. But if you think they're much of a muchness, I would have thought that Obama merits your support more than she does.

God knows I have no great expectations for either of them. But since the Obama campaign is all about race I'd have thought that American liberals would need a pretty good reason to vote against the first credible, electable black Presidential candidate in American history.

Anyway, as I say, the Obama campaign is moving some surprising people. Take this email I received from a super-smart Democratic friend who swapped the Hill for K Street and mortgage repayments last year:

I actually gave myself a cynicism enema this week and was down in SC working for Obama.  It was great that in some small way, I felt like I was doing something that resembled why I decided to get involved in politics in the first place.  I am now ruined on the Clinton's and I'm not sure that it could be treated by any amount of partisan Stockholm syndrome that could set in after an election. I might vote for McCain out of spite, considering I see very little difference between where Hillary has been for the last fifteen years and McCain- but at least McCain believed it with conviction.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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