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Vivre la difference

So did he do it? In a passionate speech to a hyped-up crowd at Denver’s Invesco Field, Senator Barack Obama appeared to accomplish one of his key goals: in language at times biting, at times sarcastic, he laid out a far sharper case than he has in the past for the contrasts between his policies and vision for the economy and those of his rival John McCain.

In response to the questions McCain has raised about his judgment — and a none too-veiled attack on McCain’s own image as a maverick — he pointed out that McCain has largely supported the policies of President George Bush.

“Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change,” he argued.

Much of the speech continued in a similar vein, as Obama drew contrast after contrast with his rival on issues ranging from taxes and energy policy to the war in Iraq. With a large national audience just beginning to pay to attention to the campaign, that’s key: while McCain is well known, many voters have little sense of who Obama is, what he’s proposing, or the differences between them.

But by the end of the speech, Obama had sketched out those contrasts far more clearly. And if he can begin to demonstrate to skeptical voters the difference between the two, that will put him much closer to achieving the much tougher task of convincing them he’s the right man for the job.

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