Pennsylvania's Democratic voters on April 22 will choose between two candidates in the presidential primary. Both are qualified to become the nation's chief executive. They have more similarities than differences. But, The Morning Call recommends that Sen. Barack Obama be nominated, and we offer three reasons.
The first is the quality of his campaign. It has surprised the experts by moving him close to the finish line against bigger, more established political machines and it has communicated his basic ideas well.
The second is his message of hope and change. It conveys a vision of the nation's future that is in tune with the tenor and consensus of most Americans.
And third, and most important for the Democratic Party at this moment in history, there is Sen. Obama's ability to inspire.
The other Democratic candidate on the ballot here, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, has focused their criticism on Sen. Obama's relatively short resume. But there is nothing naive or amateurish about the campaign he has assembled. We wish he (and Sen. Clinton) had paid more attention to the Lehigh Valley, of course. It is Pennsylvania's third-biggest metropolitan area and it deserves better than one visit by him and zero by Sen. Clinton this deep into the campaign.
But, he has done a good job of building a Pennsylvania organization. It has had to climb a steep hill, given that Sen. Clinton has the biggest share of high-profile Democratic officials' endorsements. Using the Internet, e-mail and old-fashioned storefront headquarters, he continues to build a corps of supporters here. And, at least so far, his has done a better job than the Clinton campaign of keeping the campaign positive.
In fact, while both candidates are members of the same U.S. Senate, Sen. Obama is the one who has distinguished himself as the better agent for changing Washington. Remember, on the issues, the differences between the Obama and Clinton platforms are thin or non-existent. He has set himself apart by enunciating a vision of a different America, one that people recognize as resting on the nation's founding principles. His vision calls upon ''the better angels of our nature'' just as Abraham Lincoln did in 1861.
Sen. Obama offers that vision to a nation that, like President Lincoln's, is divided. It is not about to set out on a literal civil war, but Republican and Democrat, young and old, conservative and liberal have much to fight about and are at each other's throats with little provocation. Finding common ground is the key, and Sen. Obama is better able to do that than Sen. Clinton. She has become a polarizing figure, an image that stems in part from the bitter partisanship of Washington during President Bill Clinton's administration. It was not for nothing that the journalist James B. Stewart called his book about the politics of those years ''Blood Sport.'' That rancor was not primarily Hillary Clinton's fault, but it is real, it persists, and her campaign so far has not dealt effectively with quelling it.
Then, there is his ability to inspire. It starts with his unmatched oratorical skills. His speech in Philadelphia on March 18 about race in America will join the greatest speeches in this nation's history in future textbooks on that topic. The combination of his scholarship, career experience and personal style leaves listeners at first rapt and then inspired. His oratory soars because he has a desire to listen to and represent all Americans -- the ''vision thing'' as President George H.W. Bush once called it. Sen. Clinton, by contrast, too often just sounds like a partisan, and that isn't change.
Sen. Clinton has made much of her ''ability to lead'' on day one in the Oval Office. Past experience like hers is one thing, but leadership also depends on having a vision, plans to pursue that vision, and an ability to inspire others to follow. On those grounds, Sen. Barack Obama is well-suited to lead, and The Morning Call recommends his nomination in the Democratic primary.