Two interesting stories developed yesterday on the popular appeal of Senator Barack Obama. The first of interest was Obama’s base-coddling victory at the “Take Back America” conference in Washington, DC this week. Although the 720 votes cast in this Politico sponsored straw poll fail to serve as a genuine reflection of the senator’s broad electability, it still managed to nicely contrast another brewing Obama story.

The Chicago-Sun Times ran a piece on Tuesday highlighting Obama’s appeal within the Republican Party, and the general themes that seem to attract these voters have a very familiar ring to them (h/t mvdg):

There is an interesting phenomenon that has arisen over the last few months: a trend of moderate Republicans who want to vote for Barack Obama. It may seem counterintuitive, conservatives supporting a candidate who wants to tax the wealthy and embrace the conventions in the Kyoto Accord, but there is something in Obama’s message about ridding politics of partisanship that is appealing to these Republicans.

He doesn’t carry the baggage of a Hillary Clinton. He is new; he seems authentic — although his connection to indicted fund-raiser Tony Rezko has made some previous supporters wonder — and he has more gravitas than pretty boy John Edwards. The Republicans who like him may have supported John McCain in the past, but after eight years of the Bush White House they feel they can no longer support the Republican field. The idea of a congressional glasnost — a harmonic nonpartisanship in Washington — is an Obama goal they endorse.

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Sullivan eloquently observed the difference between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. Whereas the Clinton machine has all of the traditional Democratic interest groups lined up for her endorsement, Barack Obama appears to be creating a “new” base. While questions linger over the specifics of his policy positions, Americans from all walks of life are coalescing around his message, his attitude and his vitality.

In 1980, there were discussions about the development of a “new majority” in America. The Democratic Party that had died with the 1968 convention and the McGovern-Fraser Commission left a vacuum of dealignment for the center of American politics. Many believed Ronald Reagan had the ability to forge that majority. There is a similar energy to the Obama campaign, one that appears ready and willing to grab the torch of a generation and take a new Democratic majority further into the 21st Century.

Unfortunately for Obama, it might not take a Reagan-like figure to dethrone the marred leadership we have today. In 1980, The Economist referred to Reagan’s victory as “the election that Watergate postponed.” We might be singing a similar tune in later presidential races, because as of right now, the American public isn’t necessarily looking for a third way. They want another way, one that will bring us resolution on the issue of Iraq.

A Democrat will very likely take the White House in 2008. But whether or not that Democrat is the duopoly alternative to what we have now (presumably Clinton), or a fresh face intended to forge a new way (presumably Obama), is yet to be seen. It will be interesting to see if these merging cross-sections of Obama supporters have any real life to them, or if this was simply another example of more media fluff.

But if they have any life to them at all, might we one day be referring to an Obama presidency (2012? 2016?) as the election that Iraq postponed?

Cross posted here.

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