But there have been some downsides. Obama has let McCain off the hook by not going for the jugular, especially when he could have tied McCain ever more closely to Bush. And this has raised questions about his overall toughness. Even some Democrats wonder if he has the strength to stand up to his opponents, including the left wing of his own party, if he becomes president. Obama doesn't want to come across as an "angry black man," like past African-American candidates such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton—something that many white voters intensely dislike. Whether this means he would go wobbly when under pressure is open to question.
Most important, Obama has emerged as a careful planner not given to rash judgments. "He's clearly someone who likes to test the ice to see how thick it is before he stands on it," says political scientist William Galston of the Brookings Institution, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. "That means he pays attention to what other people think. Whether he pays the right amount of attention or too much attention remains to be seen."
In sum, McCain comes across as the tougher, more decisive, and more aggressive leader. To some, he is manic, erratic, reckless. Obama seems more thoughtful, deliberate, and careful. To some, he is slow off the mark, timid, even naive. And if these differences don't make for an easy choice on Election Day, they do make for a clear one.