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Greatest Political Accomplishment


Obama: Coming Within Reach of the Presidency
With apologies to Shirley Chisholm, Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun, and Alan Keyes, Obama is (arguably, when one also takes into account Jesse Jackson) the most viable African-American presidential contender in United States history. (Obama’s mother was white, and his father Kenyan.) That says a lot about the progress of racial attitudes in America, but it probably says more about Obama, who has seemingly managed to transcend race, appealing broadly to whites as well as blacks. "Obama has changed American politics even if he doesn’t win," says Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "The next time a mainstream African-American candidate emerges, the electorate—and the political community—will not be surprised." Some have seen Obama’s success among whites as coming at the cost of his support for black issues. Jesse Jackson asserted that Obama was “acting white” by not speaking out more on the case of the so-called Jena 6, the six black students charged with beating a white teenager after nooses were hung outside their school. As the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, he was criticized for not elevating more African-Americans to top positions. Obama summed up his optimistic outlook in his famous 2004 Democratic-convention speech: “There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.”

McCain: Resurrecting His 2008 Bid for President
McCain has survived actual near-death experiences—he barely escaped a fiery end in 1967, when a rocket loaded under the plane he was boarding exploded, killing 132 others, to say nothing of his captivity in Hanoi—but his comeback from the brink of the 2008 Republican presidential contest still rates among his most impressive triumphs. This summer, with hisoverexpensive campaign nearly bankrupt and swimming in staff changes, McCain’s chances at the nomination looked bleak. The word of the day was “implosion”; many of his former champions (not to mention critics) in the press were practically counting him out. (Maureen Down suggested he drink poison to put an end to the misery.) But by cutting costs, focusing on his message, and ceaselessly campaigning, McCain emerged from the shakedown a stronger candidate—one who then captured the lead, after victories in New Hampshire, Florida, and South Carolina. This despite Mitt Romney's sinking his personal fortune into the race, and the deep distrust that McCain has inspired in many conservatives, no small number of whom have turned to MikeHuckabee . Like former strategist Jay Smith said, after McCain’s 1986 winning bid to take Barry Goldwater’s old Senate seat: “We knew McCain was going to be the next senator if he didn’t shoot himself in the foot. He tried to, but even he couldn’t do it.”


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