The thinking goes, if you're ahead, why risk messing up in a debate? But Obama wants Illinois to support him, not just Democrats. Obama wants to win with the most positive message in a generation. He wants to be a true representative of Illinois, not just the Democratic party or the African-American community. Obama is a true uniter and he wants Illinois to lead the way in bringing America back together. I think he can do it.
Four of the six debates that Obama has proposed will be downstate - an area not usually a Democratic hotbed. But it is that kind of bold move that may show the strong and unifying traits of Obama. He's not afraid to go to a downstate county that voted 70% for Bush in 2000. Obama is relying on the power of ideas, energy and hope. That is a message that can resonate with voters no matter their political stripes. And with an opponent as uninspiring as Jack Ryan, Obama will provide a stark contrast. I look forward to a great election season.
POSTSCRIPT: On another note, as Obama joins the small group of U.S. senators, he will be the only African-American in the 100 seat chamber. That is a sad fact on its own. But because of this Obama will instantly become a national star. He will be an immediate leader. For that reason, and for want of a more dynamic presidential candidate, I picture this hopeful scenario:
John Kerry chooses John Edwards as his VP. Edwards manages not to overshadow Kerry and the ticket wins in November. Kerry is reelected in 2008, with Edwards ready to take hold of the reigns for 2012. When Edwards runs in 2012, he chooses Obama as his VP. Obama will have been in the Senate eight years by 2012 - a perfect amount of national experience to put him on a national ticket. Then, in this dream scenario, Obama runs for president in 2020. Perfect.
"The years have done a lot to clarify the strengths of this man. As a candidate for any office, whether it be the state attorney general or the President, Bill Clinton showed incredible energy and great personal appeal. As chief executive, he showed a deep and far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit the Americans like in a President. Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead -- and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer.
"Over eight years, it was clear that Bill Clinton loved the job of the presidency. He filled this house with energy and joy. He's a man of enthusiasm and warmth, who could make a compelling case and effectively advance the causes that drew him to public service."
Who spoke these kind words about Bill Clinton? Al Gore? John Kerry? John Podesta? Madeleine Albright? Nope, none of those.
It was George W. Bush at the unveiling of the Clintons' White House portraits. I'm stunned.
Bush's own account of what defined Clinton shows an interesting contrast. Bush certainly is not known for any "far-ranging knowledge of public policy," and his lack of "compassion for people in need" is legendary. The only overlap would seem to be in their "forward-looking spirit," though it's debatable how far Bush's optimism extends to those outside of his elite base.
Nevertheless, I am amazed Bush would offer such kind words to a man he has been known to castigate.