Barry Bialystock

Alex Castellanos, writing in the Huffington Post, thinks Barry can’t win:

Barack Obama should not have to hit a three-pointer to win this election. It should be a lay-up. Yet if Senator Obama is doing so well, why is he doing so poorly? And if John McCain is doing so poorly, why is he doing so well?

The Rasmussen Reports Daily Tracking has McCain down only 1%, 43% to Obama’s 44%. Real Clear Politics National Average of surveys pegs McCain less than 3% behind, with Gallup showing it tied, and USA Today actually placing McCain ahead of Obama, 49% to 45%. CNN reports McCain is in a better position in Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin than he was a month ago and they have moved Minnesota toward McCain into the toss-up category. Give them credit, despite the occasional criticism from this McCain supporter and others, John McCain’s maverick band of campaign warriors are keeping this race competitive and, yes, even winning a hand or two, in the face of the worst political environment Republicans could have envisioned and the best global media exposure any Democratic presidential candidate has managed. McCain’s recent attacks have worked. McCain’s attacks on Obama’s tax increases, his elitism and celebrity, his canceled visit to wounded troops, as well as McCain’s sharp response to Obama’s imagined Republican racial attacks, all dumped cold-water on the Obama campaign, stunting momentum from his European swing and creating a Berlin backlash.

Despite the McCain campaign’s effectiveness, however, the best campaign against Barack Obama is not being run by his opponent, but by Barack Obama. It is Obama’s campaign that presents their candidate as an ever-changing work-in-progress. It is his own campaign that occludes our ability to know this man, depicting him as authentic as a pair of designer jeans.

To earn the Democratic nomination, as Fred Thompson points out, Obama ran as George McGovern without the experience, a left-of-center politician who would meet unconditionally with Iran, pull us precipitously out of Iraq, prohibit new drilling for oil, and grow big government in Washington by all but a trillion dollars. In his general election TV ad debut, however, Obama pirouetted like Baryshnikov. With a commercial Mike Huckabee could have run in a Republican primary, Obama now emphasizes his commitment to strong families and heartland values, “Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses.” In this yet unwritten chapter of his next autobiography, Obama tells us he is the candidate of “welfare to work” who supports our troops and “cut taxes for working families.” The shift in his political personae has been startling. Obama has moved right so far and so fast, he could end up McCain’s Vice-Presidential pick.

General-election Obama now billboards his doubts about affirmative action. He has embraced the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption saying, “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon…everything.” He tells his party “Democrats are not for a bigger government.” Oil drilling is a consideration. His FISA vote and abandonment of public campaign finance introduce us to an Obama of recent invention. And as he abandons his old identity for the new, breeding disenchantment among his formerly passionate left-of-center supporters and, equally, doubts among the center he courts, he risks becoming nothing at all, a candidate who is everything and nothing in the same moment. In one of the most powerful marketing books of the past few years, Authenticity, an exploration of our demand for what’s real in an increasingly contrived world, authors Gilmore and Pine quote philosophy professor Crispin Sartwell about Al Gore. “Every attempt to regain authenticity,” Crispin says, “only casts a new, infinitely repeated image through the hall of mirrors that is his political life and our media experience of that life.” Those reflections set the authenticity of John McCain in high-relief. McCain has revealed himself to his core.

In the defining moment of his life, McCain was willing to give everything for one thing, and that one thing was his country. Contrast that with Obama, who has told America that he is “a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.” Obama is the talented salesman who seduced one state after another saying “Iowa, this is our moment,” “Virginia, this is our moment,” “Texas, this is our moment,” and then tells Europe, “people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment.” How many times can Barack Obama sell the same moment to everyone, before he becomes Mel Brooks in “The Producers”? Who is Barack Obama? His campaign, as it reupholsters him before our eyes, says we can never know — perhaps because Barack Obama does not know himself.

…He has been called distant, aloof and somewhat unapproachable, perhaps because we cannot approach what he does not have, a solid core. His soul seems to be molten and made up of dreams, which is at once breathtakingly inspiring and forbiddingly indeterminate. When this young man with the flowing, passionate core, when this candidate without the solid-center changes positions and transforms himself as we watch, it leaves Americans much more in doubt about who he is and how he would lead us. It also reveals an Obama of unapproachable arrogance and inestimable self-regard: He appears confident voters will appreciate his superiority regardless of where he journeys or what he becomes to meet his political ambitions.

John McCain is a complete and well-formed man. Barack Obama is completing himself. As he moves to fit what he perceives to be a right-of-center country, he distances himself from the simple and authentic passion of a young candidate who once pledged “Change We Can Believe In.”

This is the trap Barack Obama has made for himself, the one he cannot escape, the one Hillary Clinton foresaw, the one that may doom him. The Obama campaign knows it too. In fear the dream is being lost drop-by-drop, they are going negative on John McCain…

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