Nonetheless, a campaign is a test of leadership. Mr Obama ran his superbly; Mr McCainâ€™s has often looked a shambles. After eight years of George W. Bush, the steady competence of the Obama operation commands respect.
Nor should one disdain Mr Obamaâ€™s way with a crowd. Good presidents engage the countryâ€™s attention; great ones inspire. Mr McCain, on form, is an adequate speaker but no more. Mr Obama, on form, is as fine a political orator as the country has heard in decades. Put to the right purposes, this is no mere decoration but a priceless asset.
Mr Obamaâ€™s purposes do seem mostly right, though in saying this we give him the benefit of the doubt. Above all, he prizes consensus and genuinely seeks to unite the country, something it wants. His call for change struck a mighty chord in a tired and demoralised nation â€“ and who could promise real change more credibly than Mr Obama, a black man, whose very nomination was a historic advance in US politics?
We applaud his main domestic proposal: comprehensive health-care reform. This plan would achieve nearly universal insurance without the mandates of rival schemes: characteristically, it combines a far-sighted goal with moderation in the method. Mr McCainâ€™s plan, based on extending tax relief beyond employer-provided insurance, also has merit â€“ it would contain costs better â€“ but is too timid and would widen coverage much less.