Claiming the Center

Tonight's speech was directly aimed at a great American middle that Barack Obama clearly believes can be won.

John McCain used to have these same folks eating out of the palm of his hand. But he's marched in such lockstep with the right wing of his party just to earn the nomination and, since, to attempt to solidify his base that he's left this territory unguarded.

There was a lot to like in this speech, and much of what was appealing was its unorthodoxy. Obama called for clean coal and safe nuclear power for fewer unwanted pregnancies and a Second Amendment we can all live with. This is the stuff mavericks are made of. And it rang true to the moderate Democrat Obama is at heart.

But along with moderation, he brought a big idea to the table -- independence from Middle-East oil in ten years. It's a half-measure compared to what Gore is pushing, but considering we get a preponderance of our crude from a combination of Canada, Central/South America, and the Horn of Africa it's probably doable.

Tonight also marked a dramatic shift in tone. After taking so many punches from John McCain this summer, Obama came out swinging, with a forceful defense of his character and capabilities that projected strength. And an attack of John McCain's temper as well as his judgment that puts Obama on offense for the first time in the general election.

He also hit McCain square across the nose with this critique, which rings pitch perfect after an August of ads painting him as an arugula munching anti-Christ:

If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

Tonight, on this big stage, with this giant crowd, with this huge speech, Obama changed the scope of this race.