The General Election Begins! So Who’s Gonna Win?

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Three days have elapsed since Barack Obama became the "kinda-sorta-well-pretty-much" nominee, and his campaign is already throwing elbows with John McCain. After McCain claimed that Hamas wants Obama to become president (a unique interpretation of "straight talk" indeed), Obama hit back, saying that, in what was a possibly disguised reference to his opponent's advanced years, McCain was "losing his bearings." We've only sort of begun this general election, but, so far, it looks pretty much like any other political battle, respectful debate be damned. Looking forward, what are some of the weaknesses and obstacles that the candidates will have to overcome, besides the endorsement of terrorist groups and possible senility?

• Paul Krugman writes that although all the usual indicators point to a Democratic victory, Obama's base of "African-Americans and highly educated whites" won't be enough to win. Obama will have to bring white, working-class voters into his coalition by focusing on economic issues. [NYT]

• Stuart J. Taylor doesn't think racism is as big a factor as simple "ignorance of elementary economics and other things every high school graduate should know." McCain has been more readily exploiting this ignorance (see: gas-tax holiday). But this voter "flaw" might be something Obama will have to learn to exploit. [National Journal]

• Michael Gerson says Obama is facing a general-election battle in which he's already been branded as an intellectual and ideological elite, and these narratives are usually "difficult to shift." In addition, he doesn't get the support of white, religious voters, which is striking, considering Obama is the "the most religiously fluent and informed Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter." [WP]

• Edward Luce says that, against Obama, under all the claims of "inexperience, 'elitism,' liberalism and being a man of words rather than action" lies the charge of "exoticism," due to his name, his family's religious history, and his marriage to a woman portrayed by the conservative blogosphere as "an angry, radical black woman." [FT]

• Mickey Kaus, citing the Feiler Faster Thesis, thinks a problem for Obama may be that there's so much time until the actual vote in November that "we'll get tired of him" and "he'll lose his freshness." [Slate]

• Jonathan Martin notes a worrisome trend for McCain: Though he's clearly the Republican nominee, he lost roughly a quarter of the vote in the last three primaries. And while these votes are likely just remnants of a "fervent, if narrow, grassroots following" for Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, it's definitely "a nuisance he could do without." [Politico]

• If conservatives are dissatisfied with McCain, this recent revelation won't help: Juliet Eilperin confirms with two West Wing actors that John McCain had said he didn't vote for George W. Bush at a 2001 dinner party. With Arianna Huffington and another anonymous woman, that makes four people who confirm the story. [Trail/WP]

• Andrew Romano thinks that potentially the most consequential difference between Obama and McCain is their fund-raising. Though he made $7 million in one night in New York earlier this week, McCain's apparatus is "like, totally 1996." Obama, meanwhile, can raise $2 million a day online, which means he can spend his time campaigning instead of wasting it traveling to fund-raisers. [Stumper/Newsweek]

• Alex Koppelman sees McCain as possibly the best candidate for Republicans because of his popularity among Latino voters. And yet, trends in Florida may reflect a worsening climate for McCain on that front: For the first time ever, there are more Democratic Latinos than Republican Latinos. [Salon]

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.