Barack Obama predicts that the Republican presidential nominee -- unless it's John McCain -- will try to win next year on two issues: fear of terrorism and fear of immigrants.
Obama told Boston Globe editors today that he would welcome that debate and that the GOP game plan won't work. "I don't believe the strategy of fear will work in this election," he said.
And, Obama declared, he is the best Democratic candidate to combat the strategy because he can "reset" America's relationship with the Muslim world and make the country safer and because he can deliver the progress on healthcare, retirement security, taxes, and jobs to improve the economic standing of American workers, make them less fearful of immigrants, and clear the path for comprehensive immigration reform.
He and the other leading Democrats have largely similar proposals on domestic policy, he said, so the difference comes down to who can work with Republicans and independents -- and who is free enough from special interests -- to enact major change.
"Who's going to actually push when it's uncomfortable?" he asked.
That candidate, Obama said, is not his chief rival, Hillary Clinton. Though he praised her as smart, capable, and tough, he said if Clinton is the nominee, it would be a replay of the 2000 and 2004 elections, when the 5 percent of voters in the middle and in swing states will decide the outcome and result in a divided country.
"Even if we win, we will have just eked out a victory," he said. "We will not be able to govern.....I have the opportunity to break through."
Obama, who is in his first term in the US Senate, sought to rebut assertions that he needs more seasoning, contending that more time in Washington is not an advantage. The pundits, he said, seem to be asking: "Why haven't you gotten more steeped in this culture that is dysfunctional?"
Obama also dismissed doubts that he lacks experience as a chief executive, saying launching his candidacy was akin to launching a $100 million start-up against the "Microsoft of Democratic politics" -- the Clinton campaign -- and raising more money than his main rival and creating a better on-the-ground organization.
Much of the longer experience that other candidates claim, he said, is not in actually governing, but more in campaigning on the national stage.
And he argued that his relative newness is an advantage because he's only four or five years removed from dealing with balancing his credit cards and a year removed from buying his own groceries -- he's still connected to the daily aspirations and concerns of Americans.
Obama, whose campaign promises a new kind of politics, said he and his wife Michelle talked about that a couple of days ago.
"She said, 'We're still pretty normal.' "