An amazing week in politics has come to a close but it is already overshadowed by Hurricane Gustav, which will hit the coast near New Orleans on Labor Day. Nonetheless, this November's presidential election will be historic. America will have either its first African American president or its first woman vice president.
Senator Barack Obama displayed great leadership as he successfully navigated through the turmoil and roiling emotions within the Democratic party to present a unified front on Thursday night. A record 40 million television viewers watched Obama's acceptance speech in which he firmly and articulately laid out his case. It is said that one in five voters typically makes up their mind during the conventions. Democrats and many independents found his performance to be electric and the candidate to be presidential. The Democratic ticket has appealing balance: Obama the "change agent" and Biden the experienced Washington legislator.
On Friday, Senator John McCain showed off his leadership skills as he stole the spotlight with the bold but risky announcement that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would be his running mate. McCain deployed the tactics of a general on the defensive. He launched an offensive. And with this surge he successfully refocused national attention back on his campaign, froze disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters and forged a bond with the Republican party's right flank while being a maverick.
Today, the contrasts between the candidates are clearer for many potential voters, especially on social issues. And we now have Sarah "the barracuda" going head to head with Joe "the attack dog." But this election remains close. Apart from the issues, it will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out. Will Hillary supporters line up behind Palin because she is a women, or will they find her political views unacceptable? Has Obama really demonstrated that there is substance and steel behind his eloquence? What impact will McCain's age and health have on voters given the inexperience of his running mate? How will Obama convince voters he can bring about change if he surrounds himself with Washington insiders?
In this match McCain is the experienced jabber. He punches where his opponent may be vulnerable. He wears his battle scars openly; he has survived prison camps and failed presidential runs. He is tough, wily and determined. On the other hand, Obama is strategic, intelligent and unflappable. He has grown enormously during the Democratic primary. Obama bobs and weaves gracefully, but he can sting like a bee. McCain speaks from the gut, Obama is thoughful. McCain is a decorated soldier, Obama is an superb organizer. They are each examples of America's greatness.
But now a devastating hurricane will again test this nation and push presidential politics to the back pages for a few days. Let us pray for those victims who lie in the path of Gustav.