Though there’ s no denying his star power, I’m going to wait a few months before I start making predictions about Barack Obama. As Donald Rumsfeld might put it, there are just too many known unknowns, uknown knowns, and unknown unknowns.
The Democrats have a tendency to turn more or less sharply toward an alternative to their front-runner only to turn back later in the race. Think Gary Hart in 1984, Jesse Jackson in 1988, Paul Tsongas (ever so briefly) in 1992, Bill Bradley in 2000, and Howard Dean and Wesley Clark in 2004. Some of those candidates ended up doing quite well in the primaries; others imploded completely. None of them won the nomination.
I’ll grant you that Obama has something intangible that none of those candidates had. But John McCain proved in 2000 media star power can’t get you a presidential nomination by itself; we’ll see if in 2008 he proves whether such star power can be dimmed by ideological politics. In the coming months, we’ll get a better idea whether Obamamania is a passing fancy or something more enduring.