It took the entire primary season to do it, but Barack Obama is now the presumptive Democratic candidate for US President in this year's election. 18 months ago, it seemed impossible. Six months ago, at the start of the Democratic Party primaries, it still seemed impossible. And yet, in the late hours of Tuesday, it became fact.
Whether Sen. Obama is elected in November or not [and I still think it's too early to speculate on victory then], the story of how he took the nomination from Sen. Hillary Clinton will remain as the most amazing thing political pundits have seen in decades. And yet, a few political insiders have offered clues as to how it all happened:
Charisma - Not that Hillary Clinton isn't. But Obama's message of change electrified Democrat voters in just about every primary, whether he won them or not.
New Face, new voice - Barack Obama is a first-term Senator. He didn't carry the baggage that Mrs. Clinton did as former first lady. And while having the services of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, certainly helped in some campaign strategizing, his reputation as "old Washington" [ironically the opposite position from which he successfully ran in 1992] ran counter to the emotional needs of a country overwhelmed by recession, war and, most importantly, governmental distrust.
Obama did his homework - He realized that he probably wouldn't win in the big states. So he went after every delegate he could get in smaller states. While Hillary put most of her efforts into big state votes, Barack showed his face early and often in the small states. While Hillary went for big, one-time donations, Barack pushed for smaller amounts of support. It gave him the flexibility to go back to supporters for further donations. This clever use of election finance laws left him with enough money to outspend Clinton again and again. And he put together a campaign team that impressed even seasoned political observers.
Mrs. Clinton is keeping her options open. She could take her battle for the nomination to the Democratic National Convention this summer. But this seems unlikely. She could just walk away. Again, it doesn't fit her pattern. Most likely, she's negotiating a withdrawal that would include the #2 spot on the Democratic ticket, or at the very least, compensation for her campaign debts. What she'll settle for remains to be seen.