I will admit it.

Six months ago, I would have told you Barack Hussein Obama didn’t stand a chance to get the Democratic Party’s nomination as presidential candidate, let alone win the White House.

Now, after an implosion of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign, beginning with a fumble of a question on the driver’s licenses for illegals and continuing with harsh ad hominem attacks on her main rival, Obama is emerging as the front-runner.

He’s ahead in Iowa. He’s ahead in New Hampshire. He’s ahead in South Carolina, for the first three contests. He is also getting closer in all the national polls.

Why was I so skeptical of Obama’s chances in the first place? Was it because of his race?

Absolutely not. I am one of those pundits who believes it is an absolute advantage in national politics to be black or a woman. The deck is no longer stacked against someone breaking the color barrier or the gender barrier. If the candidate has certain ingredients, the deck is stacked in his or her favor.

For instance, would Hillary Clinton ever have been taken seriously had she been a man?

It’s almost inconceivable, of course, to try to imagine it. But Hillary is most well-known for being first lady. She doesn’t have much experience beyond that except for a couple terms in the U.S. Senate. On top of that, despite the high name recognition, she probably has the highest negatives of any candidate who ever sought national office.

So why did she enter the race with the air of inevitability? Because she was going to make history. She was destined to become the first female president. It’s looking more unlikely for her every day, because of her own political glass chin and some stiff competition from Obama, who could make history himself by simply winning the nomination, let along winning the presidency.

I know there are some people out there who doubt America is ready for a black president. I know there are people out there who see institutional racism around every corner. I know there are people out there who still linger under the mistaken impression that a black national office seeker begins with a serious disadvantage.

I don’t see it that way.

For instance, if he had the right temperament and the desire, I believe Colin Powell could have grabbed the Republican nomination back in 2000. He certainly could have been George W. Bush’s vice presidential candidate, and, if he had been, I believe the ticket would have been stronger for his presence.

That’s not to say I like Colin Powell’s politics. I don’t. I am simply making a political observation.

Neither have I any use for Barack Hussein Obama. But give the man credit. He is extremely likable. He carries himself well. And he at least gives the appearance of self-confidence and intelligence.

In other words, Barack Obama has some ingredients no other major black candidate for president, especially for the Democratic Party, has ever brought to the table before.

I think it was Sen. Joe Biden who made the rhetorical faux pas in describing Obama as “clean.” I’m not sure what he meant to this day. He explained that he meant Obama was “articulate.” And that is true. That is the central difference between Obama and Jesse Jackson.

I don’t think most people would listen to Jesse Jackson and conclude that he was considerably smarter than they. In fact, he doesn’t speak well. He has never mastered his own mother tongue. It is sometimes even difficult to understand what he is saying. That does not connote intelligence. That does not inspire confidence. Most Americans – black or white – want a president who is smarter than they.

He is confident. He is articulate. And he seems genuine. He seems real. Unlike Hillary, he doesn’t appear to be contrived or an actor playing a role. My guess is he really believes what he says. What Hillary really believes is anyone’s guess.

That’s the Obama phenomenon, and it could take him all the way to the top – if not in 2008, sometime in the future.

Related special offer:

“Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson”

“Hillary! Uncensored” DVD

“Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton”

“Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton”

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