If you did not read the "comments" sections under Looking Forward: Election 2008 and/or Explaining Bill's Odd Behavior, you may have missed an extended (and worthwhile) discussion of "where we are" right now. I am posting some highlights here from my thoughts in response to JC's provocative questions and/or assertions:

JC: I believe Clinton still has the edge over Obama. The hard-core Dems. will follow Bill (not necessarily Hillary) for the most part. Bill has enough political power to make things go their way.

WF: Some "hardcore Dems" will side with Bill--but my guess is that the majority will fall in with the Obama juggernaut, if it is still on course. They want to win more than they feel any sense of obligation to Bill. The Clintons are finding to their great surprise and chagrin that their vaunted ability to control the party machinery is wide but not very deep.

JC: There are Democrats who will have to hold their noses (big time) to put the Clintons back in the White House.

WF: Yes. More and more Democrats seem to have serious reservations about the Clintons. I find this amusing, as they are now offended by the same attributes that Rush Limbaugh has been castigating for nearly two decades. But life is funny. Enough said.

However, never underestimate the power to hold your nose and vote for your party candidate. Even as bad as things are for John McCain, the vast majority of Republicans who are fundamentally unhappy with him will ultimately "hold their nose" and pull the lever.

The Democrats are more desperate to win this time around; therefore, we can expect them to be even less reticent about "nose holding."

JC: Many Independents and some Democrats would vote for McCain/Crist.

WF: Can you really vote for McCain? The war monger? The man who says he might fight the Iraq war for 100 years? The man with an 84 percent conservative lifetime record in the Senate?

The cruelest part of this election may turn out to be the betrayal of McCain's enablers, many of whom may now feel compelled to paint the "maverick" as the reactionary. We will see.

Experience and Organization: Isn't Obama equal to Hillary in that regard?

WF: Hillary has tremendous experience. She has been actively engaged in politics since law school. It is not fair to take that away from her. She is not a political wife in the image of Barbara or Laura Bush or Pat Nixon. She played a crucial and active role in the political life of Bill Clinton. She has held her own in a very high profile senate seat. She is an incredibly polished and practiced American statesperson.

Obama's organization must be read as an endorsement of his ability to command and control. But more than organization and strategy, Obama is winning on charisma. Having said that, I take nothing away from his genius and vision in understanding this campaign better than any other candidate in the race. But I am serious when I wonder if even he wonders if he is actually ready to carry the ball on this.

JC: Obama isn't scary. In particular, his youth is less scary than McCain's age. McCain will be 72 by November, and has had some health problems. That VP choice will be very important.

WF: Obama is a bit scary on some things. He is an idealist--and they have traditionally scared the American electorate. He has no record of legislative or executive accomplishment. All we have is image and ideas. They are powerful--but Obama-mania is an unpredictable vessel on which to run a fall election campaign.

I will give you that McCain is the most UNattractive candidate in either party to come down the pike in decades. His age is dreadful. His looks are dreadful. His oratory is dreadful. Standing on a stage with Obama will be an extremely painful experience for Senator McCain. I have said before, I do not think he can overcome the surface visuals in this image-conscious age.

JC: I agree that a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket would be the strongest bet for the Dems. I'm not sure either would want the #2 slot. Obama could learn a lot by traveling with Bill, and they would make quite a pair. But Obama would risk tarnishing his image and desire for a different kind of politics.

Throwing in with the Clintons would be an imperfect choice for Obama--but one thing 46-year-old idealists have to learn at some point is that this world is full of imperfect choices.

After I intimated that Obama's original anti-war stand on Iraq was more good fortune and local politics than far-sightedness,

JC responded:

As an ardent Obama supporter, I wanted to take exception to your characterization of his opposition to the Iraq war as "politically expedient". Although he wasn't yet on the national scene, Obama was gearing up for his U.S. Senate run at that time. If you think about the confusion that reigned then, and what most of us thought was a certainty: that WMD would be found in Iraq, Obama was the only Democrat (later to run for president) who saw the situation with clear eyes. Finding chemical weapons or a nuclear program in Iraq, would have immediately put Obama in a bad position for his senate run.

You should read his entire speech, if you have not.

WF: Obama's 2002 anti-Iraq speech is a great speech. And, YES, it is incredibly prescient. On the other hand, I think it is a stretch on your part to argue that it was bad politics (even if he was preparing to run for the Senate). After all, he was not preparing to run for the Senate in Texas; he was vying for a seat from Illinois. He was not thinking about a presidential run like John F. Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Chris Dodd et al. He was planning on running for the US Senate in a state where Dick Durbin never lost a wink of sleep voting against the war resolution.

JC: I noted your description of Obama supporters... but I think I'll let that pass!

WF: As for Obama supporters: I think they are good folks--just overly optimistic about human nature. This is the endearing flaw of most progressives, who make great and compassionate friends--but often steer us into intractable problems on the macro level.

Of course, I continue to support the most naive idealist of the modern era, George Bush. So who am I to chide you for your sanguine assessment of what Obama can accomplish?