Pat Buchanan succinctly sums up the coalition that delivered the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama: “Barack was thus able to unite the McGovern wing — young, idealistic, liberal, anti-war — with the Jesse Jackson quadrant of the party, black folks, and defeat Hillary’s coalition of working-class Catholics, women, seniors and Hispanics.”
Buchanan likens Obama’s general-election problems to that of Ronald Reagan’s in 1980. Where Obama is largely unknown in Middle America, and seen as too radical and exotic insofar as he is known, Reagan was seen as too extreme a right-winger and “Ronnie Raygun” by the swing voters of the time. The electorate was ready to ditch Jimmy Carter and the Democrats, just as they would like to get clear of George W. Bush’s Republicans today. But they initially weren’t sold on Reagan and the polls showed a close race until the end. Many voters have similar reservations about Obama. As Buchanan points out, a deft debate performance by Reagan helped reassure wavering voters and led to a 10-point, 44-state landslide on election day. Can Obama do the same? That might not make him the liberal Reagan, as Bob Beckel would have it, but it could make the difference between winning and losing.