By not putting Hillary on his ticket and then giving her a prime-time speech at the convention on Tuesday, Obama has the worst of both possible worlds. The better Hillary does in her speech, the more people ask why she was passed over for vice president. This is written before Mrs. Clinton spoke on Tuesday night, but she will not blow this opportunity to shine in front of a larger national audience than she has ever had. She will crisply articulate her programs and proposals, and will come across as forceful, committed and energetic. Women from coast to coast will watch her and wonder why she isn't on the ticket. It's a little like a movie that opens with flat ticket sales and bad reviews. Then the star they rejected for the lead role auditions and everyone wonders why she wasn't given the part.
Obama has a huge problem with female voters. A Democratic candidate should be running 10 to 15 points better among women than among men. But Obama is losing men by 1 and carrying women by 1. While he's doing about as well as she should among women under 40, he is actually losing those who are older, a group a Democrat usually sweeps.
He didn't help himself with these women by not choosing Hillary. Now, when Hillary spends all of Tuesday night showing what a grievous omission leaving her off the ticket really was, the electoral consequences for Obama are likely to be horrific.
It is so odd to find a situation where the economy seems to work to the advantage of the incumbent party, even though we are mired in a quasi-recession. But the current misery most people feel is nothing compared to our fear of what might be in store for us.
We wonder if our banking system and our economy can weather the shocks that seem to loom on the horizon. It is no comfort to us to find in the Democratic candidate an ingenue who wants sharp increases in taxes. Polls show that middle-class voters do not believe that the taxes won't apply to them and worry, in any event, that they could tip the economy into a full-fledged depression.
The Russian invasion of Georgia, and Obama's uncertain and hesitant reaction to it as he was body surfing in Hawaii, did nothing to reassure us that he can handle the threats we face to our national security, either. Terrorism is never far from our minds, and the world suddenly seems like a dangerous place with Russia sending in tanks and rattling nuclear weapons. The combination of fears of depression and fear of war seems tailor made for McCain.
But Obama is still the favorite to win. The nation so aches for a Democrat and so wants to turn away from George Bush and the Republicans that it is hard to see how McCain can win. But when one considers the issues, it's hard to see how he can lose.
This election can be summarized as follows: A party that is absolutely certain to win has a candidate who has great difficulty getting elected, while the other party is doomed to defeat but has nominated a candidate who just might win.