Looking back over the last 40 years, the presidential campaign that most closely resembles this year's is the contest between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1976. The Republicans were the incumbent presidential party that year, as they are now, but the Democrats had a big advantage in party identification -- on the order of 49 percent to 26 percent then, far more than today.
"They're going to try to make you afraid of me," Barack Obama told the audience at a Jacksonville fundraiser last month. "He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?" Obama was doing here by inference what many of his supporters do more explicitly.
As we enter the second half of the campaign year, facts are undermining the Democratic narrative that has dominated our politics since about the time Hurricane Katrina rolled into the Gulf coast -- most importantly, the facts about Iraq.
"It's the economy, stupid," James Carville famously said during the 1992 campaign, when a young Bill Clinton was running against the other President Bush. The same could be said during this presidential campaign. The headlines are full of economic bad news -- mortgage foreclosures, the collapse of an investment bank, higher gas and food prices and lower home prices.
As Barack Obama makes his slow but steady way toward the Democratic nomination, the assumption in the admiring precincts of the press corps is that voters have dismissed as irrelevant his longtime association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Barack Obama seemed puzzled. Angrily puzzled. The apostle of hope seemed flummoxed by the audacity of the question. At the April 16 Philadelphia debate, George Stephanopoulos, longtime aide to Democratic politicians, was asking about his longtime association with Weather Underground bomber William Ayers.
"It's the economy, stupid." Those immortal words of the political philosopher James Carville in 1992 have been reverberating increasingly in the 2008 campaign. Polls show the economy as the top issue for voters, far ahead of Iraq.
Most people's views of the world are shaped by the times in which they came of age. That's why we speak of a baby boom generation or a Generation X. But some people miss out on the formative experiences of most of their peers.
It's a generational thing. That was the theme of Barack Obama's speech last Tuesday, in which he both failed to renounce and at the same time separated himself from the man he has described as his spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The abrupt resignation of Adm. William Fallon as the head of Central Command almost got lost amid the breaking news of Barack Obama's victory in the Mississippi primary and Eliot Spitzer's resignation as governor of New York.