What Barack Obama seems to have accumulated in greater measure than his opponent is likability. His supporters seem to genuinely like him. I'm not certain if John McCain supporters truly like Mr. McCain or if they merely agree with his political stance. There's a difference. It remains to be seen if this is accurate or relevant, but clearly we have a choice between two distinct ideologies.
McCain seems to be guided by a loosely interpreted foundation of principles on government, economics, morality, individual responsibility, etc. Ultimately he realizes that in order to actually impose that perspective on the world he must actually win the election. That realization may have led him to allow tactical flexibility which seems to have blurred the lines between what he believes, what his party believes, and what is most effective at increasing his poll numbers.
Obama is certainly guided by his own philosphical interpretation of government and individual empowerment. But he doesn't come across as being overly constrained by populism. In fact, his popularity has risen organically as a result of a consistent vision that appears to be intelligent, fair, and sincere.
Obama is hopeful not only for his candidacy but for the future. He displays the necessary "intellectual vigor," as Colin Powell described it, to carefully lead America there. He chooses to loosen past preconceptions of society and attempt to understand the ordinary person, admitting he is not necessarily one. His opponent seems more obsessed with a "caricature of ordinariness" personified by his reluctant campaign mascot Joe the Plumber.
In a recent interview with Bill Maher, Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman suggested that George W. Bush has governed for eight years based on fear and force and we see the consequences. But now is the time, he argues, for optimism and expansive vision. Christopher Buckley, one of many who have gone against the grain and endorsed Obama despite existing political leanings, described the Democratic nominee as "what the historical moment seems to be calling for."
I agree wholeheartedly.